Kinema disrupts movie theaters by letting anyone show movies
At the beginning of March 2020, Christie Marchese was feeling good. She had just received a $ 100,000 investment for a new business to be launched this month. His plan was to apply the Airbnb model to the film industry and turn individuals into movie screening “hosts” who would have the tools to organize movie screenings in places like churches and community spaces. This would bring smaller independent films to areas of the county that they might not normally travel to, and also allow filmmakers and others to help create a larger audience for a film that, say, was not intended. than to streaming.
“Our thought was: can you have a cinema chain that distributes independent films, foreign language films, to a much larger network of cinemas that are not traditionally cinemas? Where you don’t have to show a movie five times a day for three weeks to barely recoup your costs? Says Marchese, who previously dabbled in the entertainment space as the founder and former CEO of Picture Motion, a social impact agency that builds campaigns around TV shows and movies. “So, can we use mixed-use spaces? And can we create a financial model that encourages entrepreneurship or taps into this super cheesy gig economy? Where could someone make $ 500 by hosting a movie one night a week? That’s enough money.
Then, of course, COVID-19 struck. Suddenly, a business built around in-person gatherings was an unsustainable proposition. Marchese’s dream of disrupting the movie industry has been put on hold. But rather than wait for the pandemic to end, she turned to her CTO, Tim Knight, and asked him, “Can you build a virtual cinema?
After all, people might not be able to attend a live screening of a movie, but they might attend one digitally. Knight has developed a prototype digital platform with built-in live chat and video streaming capabilities so that after a movie has aired, the audience can participate in a panel discussion or virtual chat with a filmmaker.
That’s how Kinema was born, which recently closed a $ 2 million seed funding led by Kindred Ventures, Lupa Systems and Galaxy Interactive. The company is developing Marchese’s pre-pandemic business plan in that it is designed to accommodate both in-person and virtual screenings. Its ambitions also go beyond small independent films. Marchese says she would ultimately like Kinema to allow people to screen blockbusters, even Marvel movies, in order to present them to audiences that don’t fit the superhero fanboy demo or who live in rural areas where there are no big movie theaters. As independent theaters close in the wake of the pandemic and even the big chains struggle, the model couldn’t be more timely.
One of Kinema’s first test cases took place last September, when the company was still technically in stealth mode. The documentary by independent filmmaker Sanjay Rawal Bring together, on Native American Food Systems, had just been released on iTunes, but the film could not be shown at festivals or any other in-person screening. Using Kinema’s tools, Rawal became his own “screening tour director,” explains Marchese, and worked with hosts to organize more than 200 virtual screenings of the film; one attracted 1,200 people, more than ever could have crammed into a movie theater. Rawal was then given the opportunity to interact with the audience after the screening and was able to follow them via email. He shared the revenue from each ticket sold with Kinema. (The average ticket price for Kinema’s screenings, says Marchese, is $ 9.18 and is determined by the host.)
Rawal wrote in a blog post that “Kinema provided a sense of intimacy and connection to many during a time of deep sadness and global crisis. Audiences have come together across time zones and borders to share the spirit of resilience that our film exhibits.
Most recently, documentary director Bruce Lee Either water, who debuted on ESPN last summer, teamed up with comedian Ronny Chieng, investor Steve Jang and Olympic figure skater Maia Shibutani to co-host a screening of Either water via Kinema. The group pre-promoted the film on social media and nearly 200 people showed up for the film, which was followed by a live online chat.
“The chat room was amazing,” Marchese says. “Everyone was telling stories about Bruce Lee and his impact on them. That kind of energy, that’s why it works well. You can see how people are connecting.
Attracting a lot of people is great, says Marchese, but the power of the model is that social media and other promotions for a Kinema event can attract interest in a movie title beyond the screening itself. Shibutani, for example, has over 107,000 followers on Twitter. A tweet on Either water can generate interest in the film regardless of the Kinema event and get people to search for it on other platforms. In this case, it’s a rare and welcome boost for a movie that’s almost a year old.
But perhaps Kinema’s greatest power is her ability to bring people together again. The trend towards isolated viewing was exacerbated by COVID-19, but even before the pandemic, audiences had grown accustomed to watching things solo on Netflix or HBO Max in the privacy of their living room. A practical practice, yes, but hardly a collectively engaged experience.
“Attention is the most precious resource we have,” says Marchese. “When you have people watching something together and you can’t stop the movie – it’s going to continue – you have engaged people. You’ve focused your attention and it’s going to leave a deeper impact.
Marchese says the inspiration for Kinema came to her when she worked for Picture Motion (PicMo), which in addition to creating campaigns around social impact films, organized screenings. “We did some research and looked at where the cinemas are,” says Marchese. “I think 45% of theaters are in four states: California, New York, Florida and Texas. So not too surprisingly, this is where there are massive concentrations of people. But then we crossed that with the PicMo list that we had places people book screenings, and 75% of our list was outside of those states.
“Ava DuVernay said it best; she does a lot of this work herself. ‘Yes Selma cannot play Selma and Straight out of Compton I can’t play Compton, we have a problem. ‘ We lack an audience.
With Kinema, one of the biggest challenges was making studios and other distributors feel safe and their films protected. The company has therefore implemented a feature that prevents anyone from recording their screen. And thanks to a cloud-based streaming system that works through an app, hosts can download a movie securely to their computer. They are unable to store the movie, and within a certain period of time it disappears.
Ultimately, Marchese would like to expand the business to include screenings for the audience, which people could find on Kinema.com. His long-term dream? “When you go to Fandango looking for a showing, you will see our screenings.”