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Here is an overview of the some of the key features of the pop-up cinema market in the UK.

Video Overview - the Pop-up Cinema Market in the UK

INTRODUCTION TO POP-UP CINEMAS

What is a pop-up cinema?

A pop-up cinema is a mobile or temporary cinema, usually set-up in a location such as a park, beach, the grounds of a visitor attraction, on a city centre roof-top or other distinctive venue (indoor or outdoor).

A pop-up cinema can be differentiated from a traditional permanent cinema (such as a multiplex like Vue, Cineworld, Odeon etc.) or independent cinema house in terms of:

Technology: a mobile cinema screen and supporting projection and sound system is installed for a specific film screening or series of screenings.

Films shown: pop-up cinemas tend to screen timeless classics or other popular modern films that customers are very familiar with (and may have watched many times) - rather than just the latest film releases.

Physical environment: the mobile and temporary nature of a pop-up cinema provides great flexibility in terms of the locations that can be used. The variety and choice of physical environment selected also adds value to the customer experience - e.g. showing "Jaws" by the side of a large swimming pool (with mechanised "sharks" swimming around the customers lying on their pool loungers).

Seasonality: whilst some pop-up cinemas operate indoors (e.g. inside museums, churches or other indoor venues), most screenings in the UK market appear to be concentrated in the summer months from early May to early September which are better suited for outdoor screening venues.

Capacity: whilst permanent cinema screens usually have a capacity of between 100-500 seats, the choice of venue by a pop-up can enable an even larger capacity to be offered (e.g. 1,000+) depending on the physical layout of the venue, location restrictions on lighting and noise + the size of the screen and sound reach.

Additional "added value" to the screening: an operator like Secret Cinema adds value to the pop-up cinema experience with "immersive experiences" directly linked to the movie being screened - and raise their selling prices accordingly!

Revision Cards for BTEC National Business Unit 3

MARKET SIZE, STRUCTURE AND GROWTH OF THE POP-UP CINEMA MARKET

Unlike the main cinema market, where detailed and reliable market data is widely available (e.g. box-office takings each week by film), there appears to be no reliable or recent data on the UK pop-up cinema market.

We have, therefore, estimated the market size and growth rate from a variety of secondary sources.

We estimate that the size of the pop-up cinema market in the UK is around £10 million in 2019 and that the market is growing at between 20-25% per year.

This estimate is based on data such as:

  • The market leader (Luna Cinema) was reported in several articles to have achieved a turnover in 2018 of £3million from around 175-200 screenings in a year.
  • We understand from industry sources that there are now around 800-1,000 pop-up cinema screenings per year in the UK. In 2018 there were 650+ screenings in London alone. There have been several new entrants into the market in recent years, which has increased the number of screenings, partly because of advances in mobile screen, projection and sound technology.
  • Whilst not all screenings would be of the same scale (or at the slightly higher ticket prices) as those of market leader Luna, this suggests that Luna has a UK market share of around 20-25% and that average revenue per screening (tickets + additional sales such as food & drink + sponsorship) is around £12,000 - 15,000. This would therefore suggest a market size of approximately £10million - though this estimate should be treated with some caution.
  • To put this market size into perspective: total annual box office takings in the UK for mainstream cinemas in 2018 were £1.28billion, a small decline of 0.1% on 2017.
  • The widespread press coverage of Luna frequently mentions how fast their business has grown, with several references to having grown by "three times" in the last three years. This would equate to a compound growth rate of around 45% per year. If we assume that Luna has increased its market share during recent years, then a fair assumption is that the market has still grown quickly, but not by quite as much as Luna. So our estimated market growth rate of 25-30% seems reasonable.

MAIN OPERATORS OF POP-UP CINEMAS

In terms of competitors and structure, there appear to be a relatively small number of operators in additional to Luna, with several focusing their event programmes in specific geographical area (e.g.London, Cornwall, Wales, Yorkshire). Follow the links below to learn more about some of these operators.

Luna Cinema

Pop-up Screens

The Nomad Cinema

Picturehouse

Rooftop Film Club London

Sundown Cinema

Lost Lands Cinema

Snowcat Cinema

The Village Screen

Adventure Cinema

Backyard Cinema

Open Air Film & Chill

Sneaky Experience

Secret Cinema

Cinestock

INFLUENCES AND TRENDS FOR THE POP-UP CINEMA MARKET

Some key issues for students of this market to consider might include:

The target audience for some of the pop-up operators focused on locations in London is relatively affluent adults aged between 25-35. Of course, the target audience is also influenced by the choice of film!

Most customers are women! On average, 70% of those attending are female. It’s pretty much the same whichever movie is shown, but for some like Dirty Dancing it’s weighted much more heavily in favour of ladies (almost 95%)

The type of film that customers want to watch is also changing. Originally there we a certain nostalgia value to the movies screened and the biggest sellers would tend to be a movie that was at least 15 years old. Now the biggest sellers are more recent movies (e.g. Bohemian Rhapsody, Mamma Mia 2, The Greatest Showman) and demand for screenings of nostalgic movies has declined to the point where relatively few classics can attract an audience.

Pricing: demand is sensitive to price, however other factors also influence demand, not the least the chosen venue and likely weather for the screening for those prepared to book close to the screening date.

The revenue for pop-up cinema operators comes mainly from ticket sales (with prices typically ranging from £10-25 depending on class of ticket, cost of location etc). Other revenues include food and drink (though bar sales are reported to be in decline) and sponsorship.

Some operators in the pop-up market consider that there is little brand loyalty and little differentiation between the competing brand

MARKETING POP-UP CINEMA SCREENINGS

Most pop-up cinema operators rely heavily on traditional PR to build awareness of the upcoming seasonal programme.

The larger operators employ PR agencies that try to gain as much coverage as possible in the relevant local media which reachers the target audience.

Event listings such as Time Out and other local event calendars are an important source of promotion.

PR activity is then supplemented with extensive social media posts and advertising, a mailing list and additional paid for advertising.

Luna appears to work with a full-service marketing agency (Booments) which provides a comprehensive set of marketing support services for Luna's pop-up programme and brand. You can read about some of those campaigns in the link above.

FURTHER RESEARCH RESOURCES FOR STUDENTS

Video Research: Luna Cinema Profile
Video Research: Interview with George Wood (Co-Founder and CEO Luna)
"Immersive" Pop-up Cinema Operator - Backyard Cinema

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