Cineplex reminds people of the joy of seeing movies together

As it plans its approach to reopening, the theatre chain projected a film for residents of an apartment building.
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Cineplex, which closed 165 theatres across the country in mid-March, is now eyeing its return with marketing plans set to roll out as its locations open up.

When its theatres closed, the movie theatre brand put the emphasis on its other offerings, such as Cineplex Store – which allows guests to browse, view movies online and earn Scene points – and delivery of the brand’s movie theatre popcorn, through apps such as Skip The Dishes and UberEats.

“We’ve been thrilled, over the last three plus months, to be able to stay engaged with our customers,” says Sara Moore, senior VP of marketing at Cineplex. “We’ve been able to bring those small touchpoints of the theatre experience to people who have been at home.”

However, Cineplex wanted to better capture the shared movie experience that comes with watching a film in a public theatre.

So Cineplex – along with its long-term agency partner, Zulu Alpha Kilo – brought the theatre experience to residents at an apartment building in Toronto on June 14, by leveraging a 40-foot wall as a theatre backdrop and showcasing the 2010 animated film, How to Train Your Dragon. The movie audio was shared through a select FM radio channel, and Cineplex popcorn was delivered to the building through Skip The Dishes.

“The community viewing program was really a way to bring those things together to people who were still in their home, and bring them sort of that moment of enjoyment before we can be back in the theatre again,” Moore says. “We were able to bring a little bit of that magic to people who could see each other, from an appropriate distance, and hear that shared reaction to a movie, which I think is what we all really love and miss.”

While it has been nearly entirely closed since March, and surveys have shown that consumers still have some apprehension about attending public, indoor gatherings like movies, Moore says the company is “in a very fortunate position.” Its Rec Room entertainment complexes are up and running in Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton this month. Cineplex is also opening up six of its locations in Alberta on Friday. More locations, in markets where it is permitted by local authorities, are planned for July 3.

In terms of marketing plans for both the Rec Rooms and Cineplex’s actual theatres, Moore says since it is just in the re-opening phase, it is still in the process of putting those plans together.

“We are obviously working to put that messaging out, to get people aware that we are open again, and then encouraging them to certainly come back and experience what they’ve been missing,” Moore says.

Capturing the “joy of the movies” has been a frequent marketing approach for Cineplex, which represents approximately 75% of the Canadian film exhibitor market.

Moore adds that Cineplex hasn’t yet determined, definitively, where its marketing dollars will be deployed or what the exact messaging will be, as it needs to make sure that it is responding in line with local guidelines, which are still evolving.

When it reopens, Cineplex staff will be required to wear masks and other PPE, but will not require customers to, though it will provide masks free of charge to those who want one. Cineplex is leaning on Canadian health authorities to direct their decision as to whether or not customers in the future will be required to wear masks in theatres.

Other safety measures included reserved seating in all theatres to ensure physical distancing between guests and spread out showtimes to curtail congestion in theatre lobbies.

On June 12, U.K.-based Cineworld Group called off a $2.2 billion deal that was set to close on June 30 and would have seen the company acquire Cineplex. Cineworld said in a statement that Cineplex had faced “a material adverse effect” to its business operations and had committed “certain breaches” of the agreement it was unwilling to correct.

Cineplex countered by saying that Cineworld had no legal basis to terminate the deal, and that it will pursue legal action for what it characterizes as a breach of contractual obligations by Cineworld.