Showcase Cinemas kicked off the Christmas season early, Home Alone-style—bringing the Christmas classic to their locations for a special event on Sunday, October 25.
Visitors to the 18 Showcase U.K. locations where Home Alone was screening—the only Showcase location to miss out was their Cardiff theater, as cinemas in Wales were closed—got a free gift of chocolate along with their screening. Attendees at Showcase’s Bluewater location, the chain’s highest-attended in the U.K., got a more interactive ‘Snowcase’ experience, complete with snow machines, Santa’s sleigh, and other Christmas-themed decorations. (Absent were Kevin McCallister-inspired booby traps; probably for the best.)
Billed as the U.K.’s first Christmas screening of 2020, the Home Alone event was designed to inject a bit of joy into the lives of patrons in a time when every little bit is much needed. Says Showcase’s Sales and Marketing Director Jon Dixon, “People need that escapism,” which cinema is able to deliver in “as safe an environment as possible… You can control exactly how many people you’ve got in the building at any one time. You can control exactly where they’re going,” how they enter and exit the cinema, and the distance between them.
Dixon estimates that approximately three-quarters of Showcase UK’s Home Alone screenings sold out, with some locations adding a second or third screen. Home Alone “was our highest grossing film for the day across our circuit,” he says, proving that “The demand for cinema is there, especially for things to do with kids.” Over the last few months, “business for family titles has been strong” for Showcase, whether newer titles—like Two by Two: Overboard and Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite!—or repertory screenings like Home Alone and the Harry Potter franchise.
Though Dixon recalls a proposed ‘Snowcase’ event that would have made an auditorium into a winter wonderland for a 2019 screening of Frozen II (the snow machines proved too cumbersome), the early, one-off Christmas screenings of Home Alone marks a first for the chain. Advance marketing did not emphasize the “immersive” aspect of the Bluewater screening. The goal, rather, was to provide attendees with “surprise and delight” rather than “selling the experience in advance. They obviously knew they were going to see Home Alone. They knew they were going to get a free chocolate pouch… But they didn’t know that they were going to get indoor snow machines. They didn’t know they were going to get Santa’s sleigh and a gingerbread family and so on. We didn’t market it as an interactive experience, it was more to give people a bit of respite from what’s going on and a bit of cheer.”
“We pulled out all the stops at our Bluewater screening to make it a truly magical experience, complete with falling snow,” says Showcase U.K. General Manager Mark Barlow. “Seeing the look of pure happiness on the faces of our guests was just wonderful. We’re pleased we were able to offer guests a chance to escape the outside world, if just for a little while.”
Future interactive screenings are a possibility for Showcase, explains Dixon, though there are not yet any in the works. They take more time and resource to put together than a regular screening, and they’re easier for films centered around Christmas, which has an easy iconography to pull from. The Home Alone event “clearly showed that [these kinds of activities] work,” says Dixon. “If there is something that we can do to link up with maybe a Christmas film or something else into next year—a relevant title where we can put some more of this theater around it—that’s a possibility. But it’s not something that we can do all day, every day.”