Over 450 UK Cinema Association members and industry partners gathered at the BFI Southbank in London last week as part of the Association’s 2024 conference ‘Growing Audiences for the Big Screen Experience’.

The event, which ran from 5-6 March, was held against the backdrop of a challenging period for UK cinema operators, with last year’s strikes in Hollywood still having an impact on the film slate

and cost of living issues still clearly in the minds of many cinema-goers. Against that, the weekend before the conference had seen the stunning success at the box office of Dune Part II, something which was underlined when that film’s Director Denis Villeneuve, along with the recent stars of another success, Wicked Little Letters, Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley, offered attendees their thanks in pre-recorded messages played to the audience.

Across the two days of the event, attendees heard sessions covering a wide range of issues, including best practice marketing approaches across social media, and an entertaining case study from Warner Bros ┬árecalling that studio’s work on both Barbie and Wonka. Experience from outside of the UK was shared by Lykke Lind Thomsen of the Danish Cinema Club, while closer to home representatives from the BFI Film Audience Network, We Are Parable and MUBI were all to the fore, as were wide-ranging sessions on repertory content and event cinema respectively,

The highlight for many in the attendance was the panel of young people from the Into Film Youth Advisory Council, moderated by film critic Rhianna Dillon, who were forthright in their opinions on what cinemas were doing well – and what needed to improve.

The mood at the event was probably best summarised by those on the Executive Roundtable which kicked off the second morning of the conference, including senior representatives from Cineworld Cinemas, Savoy Cinemas, Vue International, Walt Disney and Warner Bros, who expressed themselves as being ‘cautiously optimistic’ as to the sector’s fortunes during the coming year, but absolutely confident as to its long-term health.