Cineplex goes to the wall for reopening campaign

Who: Cineplex and Zulu Alpha Kilo, with its production arm Zulubot.

What: “Cineplex Balcony Cinema,” a new experiential/online effort reminding Canadians of the power and shared joy of the moviegoing experience.

When & Where: The event component took place on June 13, with an accompanying promotional campaign kicking off today across the theatre chain’s social channels.

Why: It’s intended to remind people of their love for the big-screen experience, particularly after more than three months of binge-watching shows like Tiger King and Too Hot to Handle.

The country’s largest cinema company is planning a tentative reopening of its theatres, beginning with six locations in Alberta this week and a broader re-opening scheduled for July 3. Its reopening strategy includes reserved seating to ensure proper physical distancing, as well as the now-standard safety protocols.

How: Cineplex used a 40-foot wall on a downtown Toronto building to show the movie How to Train Your Dragon for residents of nearby buildings. Viewers could tune into a dedicated FM channel for the audio component, while Cineplex popcorn was delivered via SkipTheDishes (which entered into a delivery partnership with the company last year).

The usual “coming attractions” feature that is a fixture of the moviegoing experience was replaced by a specially recorded message by Canadian actor Jay Baruchel, who stars as Hiccup in the movie.

“As long as there are stories to be told, we’ll find ways to share them,” says the super at the end of the video, concluding with a play on the coming attractions:”Coming back soon.”

What does the comeback look like? There’s still a lot of uncertainty about whether people will feel comfortable gathering together to watch movies without a vaccine. Plus, it’s still unclear what movies the chains show, with many of the year’s expected blockbusters —such as the latest James Bond movie, No Time to Die—being pushed back until later in the year or in some cases 2021.

In a recent report, S&P Global noted that “the film slate remains attractive and there’s pent-up demand for out-of-home entertainment,” but cautioned that it could take months for theatres to return to “normal levels.”

The reopening is of crucial importance for Cineplex, which has taken a huge financial hit financially since COVID led to the closure of its theatres on March 16. It suffered a further blow last week, when the U.K. chain Cineworld announced its intention to pull out of a planned acquisition, which caused Cineplex shares to fall by as much as 23%.

And we quote: “The past three months have given us a new appreciation for the importance of friends and family and the power of shared experiences with those we love…. Entertaining you is what our team does best, and as we work towards building excitement around our reopening in a few short weeks, this small gesture is way of reminding movie-lovers of what they have to look forward to.”  —Dan McGrath, chief operating officer, Cineplex.

Chris Powell