September 09, 2007

Curtain Raiser

"Moon River, wider than a smile,
I'm crossing you in style some day.
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker,
wherever you're going, I'm going your way."

I sat back in the Savoy Cinema in Dublin waiting for the programme to begin and enjoying the soundtrack of classic music from films such as Breakfast At Tiffany's, The Pink Panther and The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

This is by no means as unremarkable an experience as it sounds. Here in Dublin, The Savoy is alone in this. Other cinemas play live radio or canned contemporary hits before the show begins which somehow misses the point. Cinema is already competing with so many formats for marketshare that it seems silly not to make more of whatever natural advantages it enjoys.

Cinema has the opportunity to be the main event in a way in which radio does not. My old colleague, Sandy Dunlop, used to remind me that the experience of sitting with dozens of others in the half-darkness of the cinema with the light flickering from the screen is a direct descendent of the storytelling around the campfire that was once the main feature in the life of a community. The Savoy Cinema is drawing on the shared experience of a modern film-going community in playing its sound-track.

This apparently unremarkable choice has a powerful impact. It reminds its paying customers that this is unmistakeably cinema, an experience that draws us in and holds us in thrall in a way that its competitors simply cannot. Meanwhile, the other theatres blur the line between what they have to offer and what is readily available elsewhere in the world of downloadable multimedia.

The Savoy does this at no extra cost. This is true of a great many brand initiatives. They are less about extra spend and much more about on-brand choices, choices that remind the customer that this is a distinctive offer, separate from those other choices available in the market.

As I sat there in the half-darkness, the Savoy whispered soft but clearly in my ear that it is a cinema that stands apart from the rest. Naturally, I'll be going back.

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