Virtual Cinema, offering online films by cinemas, is high on the agenda of Dutch cinemas. It is clear that there are many possibilities. But where the opportunities lie and how exactly to approach them are the subject of discussion. On a special conference, organized by Picl and the Nederlands Filmtheater Overleg (NFO) about this theme, directors, programmers and marketers discussed the digital future. In addition to a lot of open questions, this afternoon showed broad support for experimentation and collaboration.

Moderator Jon Heemsbergen (director art-Up) gives the floor to Anke van Diejen and Noortje van de Sande van Picl, who took the initiative for this afternoon. “For Covid, we entered into the experiment of virtual cinema together with you. During Corona, this took a huge flight, and now that the dust has settled, and it can no longer be imagined online, it is time to find a new balance together. ”

Florido consultant and former director of Curzon, Philip Mordecai, kicked off the day with a keynote addressing the changing viewing habits and developments in the international film industry and the role of streaming in this. In addition, he explained the possibilities of offering online films as a cinema.
In a panel, Lisette Ruijtenberg, head of marketing at EYE, Pien Houthoff, director LUX Nijmegen and David Deprez, artistic director of Lumière in Maastricht, discussed what Virtual Cinema means to them. What are different cinemas already doing, why is this important, what opportunities are there and how does the sector work together in this regard? They agree that an additional online offer to the theatrical programming can be not only valuable, but also successful.
Work sessions
In small groups, the cinemas discussed four different themes around Virtual Cinema: technology, marketing & audience, business models and programming. The issues and conclusions were then presented for each topic.And what next? Anke and Noortje of Picl are very happy with the open discussion about the future of Virtual Cinema and also express their intention to further develop Picl based on insights into consumer behaviour, market developments and wishes from the sector.

For example, they are currently conducting a major European research project in collaboration with Europa Cinemas and Europa Distribution, funded by Creative Europe, into future-proof business models for Virtual Cinema. Because there are also interesting opportunities in the close cooperation between distributors and cinemas. They also conduct research within Innovatielabs into the new consumer needs of the hybrid film viewer who wants to see the best films both online and in the cinema.
“This is a great first exploration and we are going to work to take the sector a step further and remain at the forefront of Virtual Cinema. We mainly focus on the opportunities that a hybrid approach offers in the field of programming and marketing. Collaboration is also important to us and we see the greatest opportunities within a sector-wide approach. In the past year we have already focused on this by conducting national and international research and we want to build on those learnings. We are happy to discuss this further together.”