GUEST COLUMN: What’s Next for Cinema

by Brock Bagby, Executive Vice President, B&B Theatres

The birth of film studios, the introduction of sound, Technicolor, drive-ins, multiplexes, megaplexes, dine-in movie theaters, the digital revolution—the list goes on and on. With so many changes in movie theaters over the last century, the persistent question remains: what will define the industry going forward?

Our industry enjoys a long tradition of innovation and evolution. Through the years, we have quickly embraced advances in projection and audio presentation, stadium seating (and now reserved luxury seating), premium large format (PLF), extended-menu and alcohol service, and so much more. But we are still seeing an ongoing variety of imaginative and progressive cinema venues and designs. Guests have a bevy of options to choose from, especially in major metropolitan markets. For example, in Dallas you can go to a $4 matinee at one location or a $25 evening ticket at another. Within that price range, the range of amenities includes sloped floors, stadium seating, recliner seating, dine-in, PLF, IMAX, and 4D. With so many available options in the existing marketplace, what can we really do to up our game (yet again), and what is the next evolution in cinema?

From this Young NATO board member’s perspective: a lot!

There is always doom and gloom in a down year, and last year was, well, down. The innovations, however, didn’t stop. The future of cinema and the upcoming variations are exciting and challenging.

Visceral Experiences 

Guests want to see even more options and we are deliberately offering those choices to them. The buzzwords at CinemaCon last year were visceral and experience.

Visceral: coming from strong emotions and not from logic or reason.

Experience: the process of doing and seeing things and of having things happen to you.

These definitions are inextricably linked. The future of cinema will go beyond a big screen and a fat seat. Guests will want to have visceral experiences within the cinema, occurrences that elicit an emotional reaction. This will involve taking moviegoing to the next level. That means more event cinema programs that create an “experience.” Millennials are craving these event outings more and more want a communal event. For example, last year for Baywatch, B&B Theatres had a one-night-only Baywatch Beach Party. This included T-shirts, EMTs on-site teaching CPR, drink specials, lobby games, activities, and trivia. This one-off event created an evening with a strong emotional connection to a program that could only be experienced at the cinema, and it sold out everywhere. These types of events will only become more popular and more in-demand going forward.


Technology is ever-changing and the theater industry never stops inventing. The future is here with so many recent booms in technology. Blossoming and promising advances such as 4D, Direct-View, laser, immersive sound, and virtual reality were incomprehensible just a few years ago. Now we are seeing guests and theater owners all over the world embracing new tech every year. The innovations won’t stop and can’t stop. Technology will continue to improve and guests will continue to be amazed for many years to come. Our job is to remain on the forefront and commit to a culture of innovation.

Entertainment Centers/Cultureplex and more!

Like I said, guests want choices when it comes to their moviegoing experiences But they also want options that don’t involve movies at all! In the future, cinemas will be more than simply movie theaters but rather gathering places where guests can enjoy varied entertainment activities. CJ CGV has started building “Cultureplexes” that offer several formats and options under one roof. Others are building entertainment centers with bowling, arcades, theaters, restaurants, and more. This idea of a cultural experience and an all-in evening is becoming more popular among millennials and their children. These entertainment centers (not to be mistaken with family fun centers) can be a multiuse, multigenerational space for everyone. The experiences can differ from auditorium to auditorium and from bar area to lounge spaces to arcades and more. Theater owners will create different pockets and uses of space to define the areas of the building. This idea creates a more usable space for different events based on time of day, demographic interest, and so much more.

Considering all this and other exciting changes ahead, it’s still very important that we understand and remember one thing: we are a movie theater industry first and foremost. We must continue to create the best moviegoing experience possible and design flawless auditoriums with the best in sight and sound for our guests. But once we get that right (and we have), we owe it to ourselves and our guests to dream a bit more and discover what could be next. So, what is the pending revolution in cinema, and who will blaze the trail? Let’s all step back and dream for a moment—because in my dreams the future looks bright!

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