Top Women in Global Exhibition 2019: Grainne Peat, Event Cinema Association

Earlier this year, Boxoffice partnered with Celluloid Junkie to present the fourth annual list of Top Women in Global Cinema, published in our CinemaCon issue. Throughout 2019, Boxoffice will continue to honor the women who have an immeasurable impact on the exhibition industry with a series of in-depth profiles.

Grainne Peat, Managing Director, Event Cinema Association

The UK Cinema Association’s (UKCA) policy executive for the last five and a half years, Grainne Peat last year took on the mantle of managing director for the Event Cinema Association (ECA). Peat’s refined vision for the ECA was on display at the group’s 2019 Slate Day, which paired presentations on a range of content with insight-based conferences geared toward how to effectively market event cinema. 

What is the biggest challenge facing event cinema in 2019?

Event cinema continues to draw audiences from around the world. The diversity of content that is now on offer is richer and stronger than ever. We’ve seen a huge growth in the popularity of concert- and documentary-based content, which continues to attract new audiences of all ages to cinemas. 

Consumer-facing challenges remain centered around promotion and consistent marketing of what is considered event cinema. The Event Cinema Association looks to how we can improve consumer awareness and find a comprehensive and cost-effective way to better promote all content. 

In terms of industry challenges for event cinema, there is work to be done around content delivery, programming (particularly for single-site cinemas), and global box office and admissions data. 

What’s your proudest achievement from your time so far at the ECA?

A few months ago I would have said the ECA Slate Day back in January. The event, which was the first under my leadership, was effectively our relaunch. The level of attendance and enthusiasm was hugely encouraging, and the diverse range of content presented really demonstrated how much event cinema is evolving and growing.

However, I now feel our presence at CineEurope is my proudest achievement to date. It’s the first time event cinema (taken as a whole) has had a product presentation at any trade show. I hope it cements the new direction of the association and the growing importance of event cinema in terms of global box office and cinema programming. It’s been a pleasure working with Andrew Sunshine and the Film Expo Group team to make this happen. We’ve got lots happening throughout the week, with a firm focus on driving membership with partners and colleagues from across Europe. 

How would you evaluate the progress women have made in the exhibition business in the past few years?

Women in exhibition have long driven innovation. They’ve excelled as leaders and have been an integral component of all areas of exhibition and the wider film industry. It is only in recent years that the industry has started to shine a light on the successes of female leaders and recognize the challenges they have faced and continue to face in this largely male-dominated industry. Pioneering initiatives such as UNIC’s Women’s Cinema Leadership Programme was a huge step forward in acknowledging talent and nurturing future female leaders. They create an empowering network for women to share experiences, skills, and knowledge, something that was severely lacking in the industry. 

Tell us about your mentors in this business.

Particularly in my role at the ECA, the members of the board of directors give me support and advice pertaining to the event cinema landscape. It’s been a pleasure working with them over these first few months. 

My most long-standing mentor is Monica Chadha, non-executive director and executive coach at Mocha8. I caught her attention with a charity pitch I did over 10 years ago. Monica has long championed, guided, and supported me throughout my career. She challenged me, offered me a different perspective on situations, and taught me the importance of keeping my integrity. She is my independent voice of reason and a great friend. 

Veronica Lindholm [managing director of Odeon Group Cinemas] was my mentor in the UNIC Women’s Cinema Leadership Programme. I was beyond honored to be paired with Veronica. She is the sort of a leader and individual I aspire to be. I learned a great deal from Veronica, like the importance of speaking up, trying not to overthink too much, and having confidence in my professional ability. My mentoring came at a time when I ready to look for my next career move, which ended in my taking the managing director role at the Event Cinema Association. Our time together helped me to take the leap to be involved in something I was passionate about. 

Phil Clapp, CEO of the UK Cinema Association and president of UNIC, taught me a great deal about leadership and how to run a successful trade body. Structure and clarity of purpose is vital for any trade body. Members need to have a good understanding of how their needs can be met and how they can be represented. Phil has been supportive of my taking the managing director role at the ECA, and I am truly grateful to have had the pleasure of working alongside him. Lucky for him, my role at the ECA presents lots of scope for future collaborations! 

Last but not least, I have to make note of my inner sanctum, a group of like-minded female industry professionals whom I also call my friends. We’re a diverse bunch, but we’re all ambitious, supportive, competent, and enjoy a glass of wine! It’s great to have a network to chew the fat with. 

What advice would you give to women just entering the movie exhibition business?

Have confidence in your capabilities. Then have confidence in yourself. Always keep your integrity, speak up, and put yourself forward. Once in a while, go outside of your comfort zone.

What are the key accomplishments you would still like to make during your time at the ECA?

I feel my time at the ECA is only just beginning. There is so much more in store for the association. Making it a truly global—and recognized—group will be the biggest accomplishment. 

The association has lots to address in regard to technology, marketing, and data. These are the three key strands of the ECA’s new strategy. Event cinema has a lot to offer—including a different perspective—in industry conversations around audience development, technology, and marketing.

Tell me about the most important lesson you learned while you were starting out in this industry.

Knowledge is key. Own what you do and do it well. That is what I respect in colleagues from across the industry. Establish a support network of like-minded professionals. Having an independent perspective on things is hugely important to professional development and growth.

Describe your ideal moviegoing experience.

I’ll probably be going against the grain by saying that I actually enjoy going to the cinema on my own. It’s the perfect “me” time. I can switch off from everything while still being in social environment. In terms of what is important to me at the cinema, three things: seats, sound, and the quality of the nacho cheese dip! I’ve long championed the power of the cinema to provide escapism. It’s the one time I switch my phone off and get fully immersed in what I’m watching.

What’s the sort of event cinema programming that you, personally, like to go see?

Mainly concerts and theater. One of my favorite childhood books is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I went to the see the West End production, but my seats were awful and I had a terrible view of the stage. When the performance was bought to cinemas, I was thrilled that I could see it again, properly this time. With nacho cheese dip, which they don’t do in stage theaters.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, presented by Fathom Events

I am also a huge lover of music. The opportunity to watch performances in comfort on a big screen with great sound is a big win for me. Beyoncé’s “Homecoming” should have gone to cinemas rather than straight to Netflix. It’s stunning—the choreography, the music, the costumes, the passion. It should have had the big-screen experience.

And finally, can you tell me what we can expect to see from the ECA’s product presentation at this year’s CineEurope?

The focus has been to bring as much wow factor to the stage as possible, whilst ensuring we include the many facets of event cinema. You’ll have to come see the presentation, on Wednesday, June 19, at 10 a.m.! Needless to say, this is an exciting time for event cinema and the association’s members.

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