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"It’s like nothing else."

For the 16th edition of Big Screen Feature - providing a behind-the-scenes look at the world of cinema exhibition through the eyes of professionals themselves - Grainne Peat (Managing Director, Event Cinema Association) discusses the job itself and the value of the Big Screen.


Describe your typical day at work.

When I was first asked to write this, my immediate thought was – “Gosh, a typical day at the Event Cinema Association (ECA). No day is ever the same, particularly in this current climate”. The diversity of my role and activities is something that I love – the announcements of new titles, responding to a member query, various daily meetings, composing an article or working on upcoming event – and always means I’m spinning a number of plates, though I am someone who works best under pressure. Truth be told, the last few weeks have felt more “typical” than they have for the last 6 months.

Considering I’m quite a structured person, my days are often unstructured. Though, I have a loose routine. Post-school run, I start the working day with a coffee catching up on industry news, my staple being LinkedIn, the beauty of which is the variety and breath of news that is shared from my connections. This is often followed by a bit of mailbox management and then I compose my (handwritten) to-do list for the day - knowing I will never get through everything - which helps to keep me focused on what my priorities are for the day ahead.

As a social-being, I make sure I have a couple of calls fixed every day to help keep connected with members and colleagues on how things are going. These calls enable me to better understand how the industry is shaping up and the challenges that different companies are facing but also what strategies they are forming to progress their businesses. But, equally, these calls help me to better understand how the ECA can support the industry.

Currently, we are working on two product presentations for CineAsia and the META Cinema Convention. Again, those that know me know that I’m a bit of a control freak and get quite involved in how we assemble the presentations - everything from the music choices to the running order. When working on events, there is a lot of administration and approval with stakeholders to go through, ensuring that content providers are happy with how their material is presented. This is very important to me, as we want to give them the best platform to showcase their content. I’m also participating on a panel for the META Cinema Convention and, having been furloughed for the last 6 months, with a couple of ‘outings’ under my ECA hat, its great to be back doing the day job and keeping on top on how well event cinema is performing across different territories.

With the constant shift of major titles, event cinema is becoming a lifeblood to cinemas at the moment and we are seeing a significant increase in programming and opportunities to play a wider range of events in cinemas. In September, the UK Box Office share increased from 3 per cent to 6 per cent and we are confident that this will increase again in October. I’m genuinely in awe of the content providers who are putting new and exciting content out there for cinemas to offer.

The opportunity for audiences to access the Arts outside of the home is hugely important to the ECA and it is certainly becoming an important driver that is encouraging audiences to return to the cinema. The ECA is committed to helping to elevate the range of performances and shows available and tap into those “hard to reach” audiences that are a key part of the event cinema demographic. Whilst current box office is in no way comparable to what it could have been, when you consider the limited play of new events against reduced occupancy, the events are performing solidly and are helping to bring in audiences. As we know from previous studies we have undertaken with Movio, there is a big crossover with event cinema audiences to mainstream titles, so I hope there is a growing “halo effect” in that those audiences are returning to the cinema - having had a previously great and safe experience - to see domestic product or a title they wouldn’t normally go and see. Pushing the safety message around cinema is one thing we as an industry need to stay actively focused on to help audiences understand that the measures put in place by cinemas make it a safe and enjoyable experience.

The moment you fell in love with the Big Screen?

I honestly cant remember my first cinema experience or what I saw. I do remember having my 7th or 8th birthday party at the Odeon in Cheltenham. I was able to take 5 friends, we all went to Wimpys (showing my age) afterwards and I remember being so excited. I was a big Disney fan as a child and can still remember seeing Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and The Lion King all at the cinema. The main screen at the Odeon in Cheltenham, at that time, left such an impression on me. I can still remember sitting – centred - at the back, in awe of the size of the screen and being so excited to see the next Disney classic feature at the cinema. Cinema has always been a big part of my life and those that know me know I have long championed the power of the Big Screen, the escapism it provides to switch off and be transported somewhere else. It’s like nothing else. 

When I worked for MediCinema, I would regularly volunteer at the Wednesday screenings at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, to remind myself what I was fundraising for. The patient stories we would hear were truly heart-warming. Those who have spent prolonged periods of time in hospital, understand how isolating it can be. MediCinema offers a chance for patients to have a collective and enjoyable experience away from their wards and, for a few hours, forget where they are. I vividly remember the screening of The Hangover II, we had a full house – 100 seats, 4 hospital beds and a few patients in wheelchairs – and the atmosphere was incredible. I’d momentarily forgotten that I was in a hospital and looking around to see how poorly some of the patients were but, for the first time in a long time, they were laughing and had left their ward for a decent dose of cinematherapy - that there is real magic of cinema.

The best thing about the cinema experience?

It’s the prefect “me time”. I rarely switch-off and I am guilty of constantly having my phone in my hand, checking, reading, texting, talking. The cinema is the one time I switch the phone off and get transfixed – even when I take my son to see Hey Duggee – with no distractions. People find it hard to believe that in the last 3 months I have been to the cinema more times than I have been to the pub, which of the latter, has only been twice! The cinema is my sanctuary. I’m by no means a cinephile, I enjoy a wide range of content and I will opt to go to different cinemas to get the best experience for what I plan to see. That said, sound, seating and the quality of the nacho sauce dip are all very important determining considerations when deciding on where to go!


BRUSSELS, NEW YORK – 26 July 2021: The International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) and the Film Expo Group are...





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