Nicky Beaumont, film programme manager: cinema in 2020 Part Two

Nicky Beaumont is Storyhouse’s film and digital programme manager. In Part Two, she talks to us about outdoor film events as a response to the pandemic, and the future for cinema.

Outdoor Cinema & Drive Ins 

The other reason why I have been feeling buoyant as a programmer for Storyhouse  in this troubled year is that first and foremost we are creative producers. Working for an organisation that creates events rather than passively sitting around waiting for something to come along has been a real advantage. I’ve been managing the programme for the much-loved Moonlight Flicks since 2016 but this year we have really taken the Moonlight Flicks brand and expanded it.  

After investing in a 30ft Airscreen we moved location from the Roman Gardens to the Dean’s Field in Chester – largely to accommodate the need to be able to keep groups of audience members apart and manage social distancing effectively. But, the location was great and the huge screen really brought something to the annual event. We screened our usual mix of crowd pleasers – Dirty Dancing, Sister Act, and Moulin Rouge  – were amongst the titles, and hopefully succeeded in spreading a bit of much needed joy. 

The new equipment has enabled us to develop the Moonlight Flicks offer and we are now building partnerships across the region so we can do more events. In the Autumn we went to Claremont Farm on the Wirral and did a great five-night event there, films included Jurassic Park, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Greatest Showman, Knives Out, and Coco. 

We also had our first go at creating a Drive-In event at Linenhall Car Park during the summer. It was a massive learning curve for everyone involved. A second Drive-In for Halloween week at Chester FC hit the headlines when we got caught out by boarder issues and the Welsh lockdown. The operations and technical teams really had to do some quick thinking to enable the event to go ahead – including re-mapping the site to make sure we were only using the English side of the car park and ordering in porta-loos! However, we are not deterred, and Drive-Ins will be part of our future outdoor offer. 

Currently we are working on outdoor events for Christmas which will hopefully mark the end of lockdown#2. Keep an eye out for news on this soon. 

What does the future hold? 

I’ve no crystal ball but it is hard to imagine that the film industry will settle back down to exactly how in was pre-Covid. It is likely that this year has accelerated a change that was going to happen anyway. We will see more films released on streaming or pay to view platforms at the same time or close to the date they are in cinemas. As an independent cinema this doesn’t particularly worry me. Last year when Netflix started making their films available to cinemas we had great success with titles such as The Irishman. In October half term we screened the latest version of The Secret Garden, a film which is owned by Sky Cinema – we sold out every showApple TV’s On The Rocks – was also popular in our cinema. The cinema experience offers something unique – the chance to be immersed in the world unfolding in front of you, it’s a night out, something special, a treat. I strongly believe it is something that people will still choose to do – even when a product is available on another format. It’s great that on a Tuesday evening when you’ve been in work all day, and you’ve just put the kids to bed etc – that we have a choice of some great films on a multitude of subscription or pay to view services to kick back and relax in front of. But it is as well as not instead of cinema, in my opinion. 

The Covid world has also forced some smaller independent distributors to come up with solutions to cinemas being closed. One of these is a new initiative of virtual screenings where audiences can pay to watch a film online with the revenue being split between the independent distributor and an independent cinema of their choice. Whilst we are closed this November, we have set up a partnership with Modern Films – audiences can watch A perfectly Normal Family, Raising Hell – The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, and Luxor through their virtual screening room and we will get 50% of the box office. I think initiatives like this will continue to develop even in the post-Covid world.

In Part One, Nicky described her role at Storyhouse and how cinema has changed in 2020. Head to Part One of Nicky Beaumont: Cinema in 2020 here.