Movie Magic

As creativity and culture editor Britanny Kiefer of Campaign Magazine reveals this week, Cinemas are emerging from Covid lockdown as cautiously as most, yet are keen to re-enchant their audiences with a magical experience, while at the same time keeping them safe from infection and compliant with social distancing guidelines.

image of social distancing feet floor stickerThe public, however, remain wary of indoor social spaces, so cinemas, like bars and restaurants, need stringent risk mitigation strategies before thinking about a fully operational programme. With all that in place though, and with the new one-metre-plus rule, attendance is estimated (optimistically) to reach around 50% of pre-pandemic levels.

Understanding audience motivation is crucial for cinema designers and planners, while audience member experience is at the core of all event success (or otherwise). Taking this into account, there is still ample scope for movie theatres to turn on the magic of the movies by attending to a few fundamental features of the film viewer’s experience.


Firstly, strong content is essential.

A number of big budget, high attraction films like the recently completed Dune remake and the latest Bond movie have delayed their release dates in hopes of  a decent attendance.


Secondly, luxury and comfort are big.

VIP seating and quality food experiences are noted as strong factors acting on the pre-pandemic rise in cinema going in the UK. This would create an added safety dimension on top of seating breaks and wider aisles.

Finally, an emotional hit.

Evidence emerging from wider qualitative studies among audiences at film, music and book festivals (up until the Covid lockdown) reveals the ways in which they appeal to customers in helping to fulfill their deep need for escape, their high hopes for inspiration and imagination, and as fuel for their loftiest dreams.

image of red curtain and plush seats in movie theatre

Furthermore, the atmospherics.

Coupled with the sense of ‘togetherness’, atmosphere feeds another notable aspect of human practice and experience – the enacting of ritual with all its attendant emotional rewards. Perhaps more than any other medium, immersion in a film experience illuminates a unique form of escapism among consumers, a phenomenon called ‘liminality’, an intense sense of unity of experience, almost transcendent, with a strong emotional undertone.

A liminal event is a memorable event and one which calls the seeker back for more. This is indeed the magic of the movies, which marketers would do well to take on board and employ in the service and inspiration of their clients. So, without further ado,

let’s go to the movies…(safely, of course) 

Image Citations: all creative commons free-to-use licence;

Social distancing at the VIC:

Cinema graphic:

Cinema image 1:

Cinema image 2:

Published by Roberta McDonnell

Author and consultant with mental health nursing, counselling, life coaching, health research, retail sales and marketing experience; trained in psychology, social anthropology and marketing at Queen's University Belfast [PhD 2006, MSc 2019] and CIM [2020-2021]. Love music, films, reading, writing, blogging, crafting, cooking, walking and psychology-anthropology, especially all things Jungian. Love David Bowie, Bob Dylan and Louis MacNeice, not necessarily in that order. My blogs are and I published a book on creativity and social support in mental health [Palgrave Macmillan 2014]. Consulting in marketing, time and stress management and creative mental health.

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