Thomas Hosman shares Cineville’s success story at the International Distribution Summit
- The talk by the co-founder of the cinema subscription service explored the great advantages of an “all you can watch” offering vis-à-vis distributors and exhibitors
On 19 October, Cologne’s International Distribution Summit hosted a keynote speech by Thomas Hosman, the co-founder and CEO of Cineville, introduced by Lena Kettner. In his speech, Hosman explored the history of the “all you can watch” cinema subscription service and highlighted the advantages it offers to distributors and exhibitors in terms of audience growth and financial viability. It all began in 2009 in the Kriterion, a cinema in Amsterdam run entirely by university students. At the time, it was a popular place for young people “to drink coffee in the daytime and have beers at night-time,” but it struggled to attract cinemagoers. They asked their customers the reasons for their reluctance to fill the theatre’s seats, and the answer they received was that the cinema often screened “arthouse movies perhaps good for their parents but not for them”. Many of the titles their customers wanted to see, however, were also labelled “arthouse” by the team. Back then, Amsterdam had 13 other independent cinemas in operation. The Kriterion staff met with them and learned that they were all struggling with smaller titles and rapidly losing viewers, becoming “less and less attractive for the 18-30 age group” and mostly attracting viewers aged 50-plus.
From that moment on, they decided to work together “to change the image of arthouse films” and to bring people back to cinemas. The idea was to collaborate instead of competing, whilst working together as an industry and running Cineville collectively, sharing data, revenue and subscribers. Today, Cineville is a network consisting of 60 cinemas, boasting 1.5 million admissions per year and upwards of 55,000 members. Over the years, Cineville’s members have worked on several ad campaigns to enhance their reputation for accessible offerings, and they later created an official website and dedicated app.
Another important goal was to create a community of loyal viewers, and to find ambassadors. Cineville started working with venues, brands and events which were popular with young people, including other festivals. Once you become a member of Cineville, you can access a variety of activities to make you feel like part of the community, and to enhance your “social experience”; namely screenings, Q&As, quizzes, parties and the sale of cinema-related merchandise, among other events.
During the pandemic, Cineville offered its members the option to pause their subscriptions or to keep them active to support its cinemas. In parallel, Vitamine Cineville offered up films to watch at home, an effort which resulted in 450,000 views. Overall, 70% of subscribers continued to pay their monthly fees during Netherlands’ six-month lockdown.
Hosman then spoke about the Unlimited Card and its pricing: €21 per month, with a discounted €17.50 fee for students. Most of Cineville’s members are aged 20-25, with the overall majority visiting cinemas 2.5 times per month, totalling an approximate 30 visits per year. Commenting on these positive results, Hosman quoted Vincent Breedeveld, of The Searchers Distribution: “For us, as a distributor, these numbers show that people with a Cineville pass are willing to step outside of their comfort zone; non-English films almost over-perform in the Netherlands. Our numbers indicate that a lot of that has to do with the ‘adventurous’ attitude of Cineville-members. We believe that Cineville lowers the entry barrier to the more ‘difficult’ arthouse titles, thereby making them economically viable to screen here.”
Cineville’s financial model sees 10-15% of card revenue used to cover subscriber expenses, with 85-90% going to cinemas and distributors. The fixed ticket price is approximately €7.50, which is paid out each time members visit a cinema. The price is set on a yearly basis, based on the expected number of visits. Cineville is fully transparent when it comes to its numbers and data, providing insights on audience behaviour and a dashboard for exhibitors and distributors, thus allowing the players involved to follow audiences from the release of a film’s first trailer until the spectator’s actual visit to the theatre. In June 2022, Cineville launched a new network in Belgium. The team is currently working with Austrian cinemas to launch their own local membership scheme by “sharing knowledge and technology.”
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