Last week I gave a talk at the Barbican for the East End Film Festival. The event, EMERGE, was looking at the convergence of technology and storytelling and which made for a fascinating day. One of the topics which came up in discussion was the rise of UK alternative cinema content. Due to time, we didn’t get a chance to address the issue properly so I promised I would cover it here. Alternative cinema content, or ‘Event Cinema’, is the use of cinemas to show concerts, events and performances which are not traditional feature films.
The sector has grown massively in recent years and even has its own trade body in the UK, the Event Cinema Association. Just like with feature films, the field is dominated with major cultural brands, such as New York’s Met Opera, the UK National Theatre, Bolshoi Ballet and the Royal Opera House. New brands have also been established, the largest of which is Secret Cinema who mix live theatre with classic films to present a whole evening’s entertainment. Later this summer they are rebuilding parts of the American town of Hill Valley in which to present screenings of ‘Back To The Future‘. In summary…
- The UK leads Europe in alternative cinema content*
- alternative cinema content took £12.5 million at the UK box office in 2012
- Opera accounts for 40% of all alternative cinema content events in the UK
- 52% of UK alternative cinema content is live
- In Germany only 35% is live
- 87% of alternative cinema content is Sweden is broadcast live.
Leading the European pack
The UK is taking the lead in alternative cinema content within Europe*. Of the events screened in the UK, 52% are broadcast live with the other 48% are pre-recorded. The split between live and recorded alternative cinema content is quite different between countries. In Germany and Austria only 35% of alternative cinema content is broadcast live where as in Sweden it stands at 87% live.
Alternative cinema content is on the rise
In 2006 the entire alternative content sector accounted for just £200,000 of the UK box office, whereas by 2012 this had grown to £12.5 million. For comparison, the film ranked 20th at the UK box office in 2012 (The Muppets) earned £16.8 million.
Something to sing about
The largest single type of alternative cinema content in the UK is opera, followed by ballet and music events. Opera has been the leader in alternative cinema content for the past five years, accounting for 58% of all events in both 2008 and 2009.
The data for today’s post came from the BFI’s Research Unit, IHS/Screen Digest and the Event Cinema Association. *I don’t have data for every European country so it’s possible that another country is showing more alternative cinema content than the UK and keeping it on the QT. The topic of my Barbican talk was the state of the British film industry so it was rather amusing to find a sign outside the cinema door which read “This programme contains distressing images“.