Film industry launches TV channel to win back audience

Cosima Marriner
Monday January 16, 2006
The Guardian

The British film industry plans to launch a channel on BSkyB next month aimed at wooing TV viewers back to the cinema.
The round-the-clock Eat Cinema channel is a joint venture between trade body All Industry Marketing for Cinema (AIM) and digital TV company Enteraction TV. They will split the estimated 10m annual cost of the channel, the first in the world to be launched by a cinema trade body.

Forced to compete with television for audiences, AIM decided last year that a dedicated channel would be the best way to lure TV viewers back to the cinema. Until now, the only industry promotion of cinema has been through advertising campaigns for newly released films.

"We're going to fight fire with fire, promoting cinema via a TV channel," said AIM chairman Barry Jenkins, who represents UK film distributors and exhibitors. "Hopefully this will whet the appetite of TV audiences and bring them back to the cinema en masse."
Eat Cinema will eschew the film star gossip favoured by showbiz channels, concentrating on the films and the cinema experience. Starting on Sky on February 28, Eat Cinema will feature reviews, cinemagoers' feedback, exclusive footage, interviews with film stars and a behind-the-screens look at Britain's cinemas.

The advent of videos, pay TV, DVDs and video on demand has driven down UK cinema attendance since 1993, when Britons bought 180m tickets. Admissions have stabilised in recent years and rose 1% to 174m visits last year. Admissions fell 18% in Germany and 10% in France in 2005.

Mr Jenkins attributes the resilience of UK cinema attendance to the release of British films such as Harry Potter and the success of AIM's two-for-one tickets offer for Orange mobile phone customers.

Attendance in the UK still lags behind the US. On a per capita basis, Americans visit the cinema more than five times a year, compared with 2.8 in the UK. Mr Jenkins hopes Eat Cinema will boost UK attendances to more than four a year by 2009. While cinema remains popular with 16- to 27-year-olds, attendance drops off as people get older.

Eat Cinema will be complemented by a website and promoted in cinemas and on film posters.