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Acquisition of Picturehouse poses challenges for Cineworld

Photo of George Davies by George Davies
Cineworld owns 80 sites in the UK
Cineworld owns 80 sites in the UK

 

The acquisition of Picturehouse by Cineworld offers opportunities to brands but handled wrongly could jeopardise the quirky character of the art-house cinema chain and risk alienating a hard-to-reach audience, says George Davies.

It was announced on December 6 that the shares of the art-house cinema chain Picturehouse had been acquired by Cineworld Plc in a deal worth more than £47.3m.

Cineworld already owns 80 sites, of which 77 are multiplexes. This already impressive portfolio includes four out of the top ten highest grossing cinemas in the UK, including the number one and two in Glasgow and Dublin respectively. 

It is not yet clear how Picturehouse will fare under the generic mainstream umbrella of Cineworld, Its unique character attracts a notoriously hard to reach audience and provides alternative advertising opportunities to various brands.

First on Cineworld’s agenda is to expand on the 21 art house cinemas that Picturehouse already runs by adding 10 more sites, including one in London. This could pose as an exciting opportunity for brands as it would inevitably result in a growth of both admissions and Picturehouse’s core audience, which is very much ABC1 with an older skew. With this being a high value and growing part of the market it could give brands the opportunity to better reach this demographic, which can only be a good thing.

On the other hand, increasing the number of arthouse cinemas by 50 per cent in such a short space of time has left many of the core fans with concerns. Many believe that Cineworld expansion plans are just keeping its shareholders happy by ticking off another of its corporate objectives; grow box office revenues and maximise profits. Fans also state that many of Picturehouse’s venues have developed their unique character and social cinematic experience over time and it cannot be simply cloned and expected to attract the same audience. Cineworld has tried to provide reassurance by saying it will leave Picturehouse to run as a separate entity and ensure it maintains its unique character.

It does seem then that Cineworld offers an opportunity for more brands to access this notoriously difficult audience. However, if it fails to deliver the amazing experience that Picturehouse has become famous for with rapid expansion plans, it could risk alienating its core audience and lose out in the long run.

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