What made you first love film? What was the moment you became ensnared in the wide world of movies? For some it was sneaking into films that were far too inappropriate to be watching when you were young, for others it was watching late night movies on TV that were far too inappropriate to be watching when you were young. In the modern day the concept of not being able to watch something is as alien as the alien from Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, Alien Resurrection, Alien vs Predator, Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, Prometheus and Alien Covenant. As we all know 8 year olds are illegally downloading Human Centipede onto VR headsets and turning it off half way through for being too tame. Take the vast expansion and convenience of consumable media that young people enjoy, combined with the fact that 16-30 years olds don’t really have any money these days and the question arises ‘how do you get young audiences into cinemas?’
Following on from a screening weekend in Leicester last year on this very subject I was excited to attend another day focusing on young audience engagement, this time in Sheffield at the wonderful Showroom Cinema. Hoping to build upon ideas and thoughts not only on how to attract 16-30 year olds to my cinema (Curzon Cinema & Arts) but also how to nurture a love of diverse film for an audience that would continue for the rest of their life. Being a member of the human race within that age bracket you would have thought I would have found it a bit easier, but no, it’s harder than it looks.
After a quick leg stretch and a cup of coffee it was time for a couple of film viewings. The sparkly and good hearted Freak Show starring British up and comer Alex Lawther as a flamboyant and unapologetic teenager starting life over in a new school. Then the confident and unique Pin Cushion from first time writer/director Deborah Haywood telling the darkly comic and relatable tale of a teenage girl rattling around in the pinball machine of puberty.
To finish off the day for me was a talk from the Grosvenor Cinema’s Events Manager Megan Mitchell. With case studies and the telling of her own personal experiences Megan demonstrated some of the effective, and not so effective ways in which our industry can cater better for young people. With the inspiring story of how a teacher ignited her love of film when she was a teenager with a simple class trip to the cinema I came away from my day in Sheffield brimming with exciting ideas and with a bit of planning hope to put them into practice in the near future.
The titanic question of ‘how do you get young audiences into cinemas?’ Still remains a behemoth to be wrestled with but with confidence and a bit of experimentation I hope our cinema can reach out to those people to whom film will become a life of wonder.