There’s little question, the cinema user experience is rapidly evolving into new experiences. But it remains unclear if the force behind them is due to increasing uneven box office attendance, home entertainment options, the need to be competitive locally, natural evolution, or something else.

Nonetheless, the industry is prime for service designers to make their impact—with one service entrepreneur already causing disruption.

The health of the cinema market is determined by a number of variables, all connected. On one hand, ticket sales are going up, on the other, prices are increasing (5% in U.S./Canada over the past few years) while the overall number of tickets sold has been declining over 10 years. On one hand, most big-budget movies are geared to the ideal youth demographic, on the other hand, sales are dropping across the board for state-of-the-art 3D digital movies. And summer blockbusters, which once drove the market, have failed to materialize for several years.

Against this backdrop, home entertainment grew in 2018 by 16%, which some, but not all, argue is cutting into the profits for cinema owners.
By the numbers: In 2018, global movie sales in theaters reached $41 billion, up 1%, driven by China that grew 35% in sales. Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMA) dropped -8%, only bolstered by increases in Germany and Russia; Latin America dropped -22%; and, U.S./Canada grew 7% compared to 2017, which happened to be the most dismal cinema year in over a decade for sales and attendance.

More numbers by MPAA: MPAA 2018 Report

Meantime, whether by evolution or driven by proverbial tea leaves, cinema owners are transforming user experiences. For starters, a ticket to the movie used to pay for a seat. But nowadays, it could just as well be a spot on a bed, a table set for a meal, or a stool at a bar. Bottom line, any theater that undergoes renovation, the first priority is installing seats that are more comfortable and roomy, some theaters are covering their new seats with a plush velvet or quality leather, and ones that recline. More cinemas are including meals with the show—including ones that offer gourmet meals prepared by trained chefs—versus concession snacks—and alcoholic drinks.

A London theater, Electric Cinema, ups the experience by providing movie-goers with a tray of boxes to be opened at specific points in the movie. Some boxes will contain treats and others, mini cocktails. In Jaipur, India, the Rajmandir Cinema, known for its opulence, pumps the corresponding movie smells into the air system—as if we didn’t know that was coming.

These are novelties. But arguably the innovation distinction these days goes to Mitch Lowe, co-founder of Netflix. During the past six years, he has been working to improve his MoviePass, a subscription-based theater pass that entitles holders to unlimited movies during a period of time. The price has ranged from less than $10 to as high as $20 a month, with unlimited movies a week, a month, a year, etc. What’s more, Lowe is lining up “clients,” to pay $2 per pass sold over duration intervals, to obtain data on theater-goers. This is considered a boon to cinema owners and movie producers, who will for the first time, have data on individual movie-goers.

A boon is happening for cinema owners and movie producers, who will for the first time, have data on individual movie-goers. Click To Tweet

Clearly, MoviePass changes the movie experience, both from a user perspective and around designing a service. The MoviePass concept pushes the service experience farther forward and to last much longer.

Think about it this way, MoviePass holders now begin their cinema experiences prior to deciding on going to the cinema, or which movie to see. Plus, MoviePass holders can be influenced long after the movie ends. Put this way, MoviePass is a conduit for designing gap-free service experiences with the help of a journey map and a service blueprint. Moreover, with MoviePass, service experiences can be tracked/monitored and touchpoints can be planned and orchestrated. In the hands of a service designer, the cinema experience could become more than just 3D, it would be truly holistic.

sign up for the apprentice

Service Design Insights and Inspiration Delivered WeeklyJoin our newsletter to receive the latest content from the International Service Design Institute.