The second annual UK Cinema Association conference, Engage: Reward: Grow – marketing the big screen experience, proved a major hit with Association members and colleagues from across the industry.

Held at the prestigious new Picturehouse Central cinema in London, yesterday’s event saw an audience of over 300 from across the sector consider the challenges and opportunities presented by the marketing of cinema-going to the public.

Kicking off with a challenging keynote address on customer service from Ian Shepherd, Group Chief Commercial Officer at Odeon and UCI Cinemas, the focus of the day was to explore the demographic and other trends which will require cinema – as with so many other sectors – to change the way it engages with and serves its customers.

Taking an ongoing Yougov survey of attitudes to cinema-going as its starting point, the first session of the day saw a panel of marketing professionals from both inside and outside of the business – including Vue Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, The Post Office and Mediacom – offer their thoughts on what the sector did well, and what it needed to do better to broaden the cinema audience. Moderated by Matt Mueller, Editor of Screen International, the panel concluded that increasing personalisation of messaging, and a clearer understanding of what each customer wants, were key.

The second session saw Ed Hughes, Brand and Partnerships Director at, talk about that company’s involvement in the MEERKAT MOVIES cinema ticket promotion, but also explain the ethos of a company where customer service is at the core of all of its activities.

The afternoon kicked off with a presentation by Corinne Thibault, International Director, Cinema and Leisure at The Coca Cola Company, considering the extent to which cinemas are now required to compete in ‘the experience economy’, what that means and what they should do to stay ahead.

The day closed with a panel session moderated by Monica Chadha, Director of Mocha 8, looking at the challenges of diversifying retail operations, and how cinemas are being required to tailor their food and beverage offering in response to changing customer needs. Discussion – involving colleagues from The Picturehouse Uckfield, Zeffirelli’s Ambleside, Everyman Cinemas, Mondelez International and graze – was lively and occasionally challenging, generating a number of ideas for new ways of approaching this challenge.

Immediate feedback from those attending the conference was hugely positive, with a general view that – even in a time when box office is exceptionally healthy and the sector buoyant – there is always more than can be done to encourage people to enjoy the big screen experience.