pop up cinema statistics shown with a carton of popcorn against a pink screen

Pop Up Cinemas: Growth & Statistics

Filed under:

Pop Up Cinemas statistics show that this niche form of cinema screening has become a notable niche industry, convenient for audiences and great for business at a time of changing market dynamics.

2018 saw cinema audiences grow ever larger, including in the UK. A wider range of venues offered an increasingly complex array of screenings, with pop up cinemas tapping in to the growth of the global interest in film.

The growth in ticket pricesn stalled in 2018, but other revenue streams, including concessions, advertising and online booking fees, continued to grow.

Covid-19 interrupted this growth in audience numbers in significant, complex, and long lasting ways. But the small and flexible nature of pop-up cinema allows it to adapt to changing market conditions more nimbly than the large multiplexes, which have seen staff cutbacks and the replacement of staff with booking terminals as one way to weather these economic storms.

What are Pop Up Cinemas?

Pop Up Cinemas are a temporary and moveable form of film screening to an audience. They show a limited number of screenings and the frequency depends on the location. That could be one screening per week, several screenings over one weekend, etc.

They might also be targeted towards certain times of the year, with outdoor cinema, Film4 summer screens, Luna cinema and roof top cinemas providing entertainment for the summer holidays. Or Christmas films played at a mobile cinema can attract shoppers into a city centre.

Sometimes a pop up event can happen in a cinema multiplex, showing a one-off screening of a London theatre or musical theatre performance.

Most audiences pay for the screening. In a room, that would be per person. In an outdoor cinema, it could be per person or per vehicle.

But pop up cinema screenings can also be free. 

For example, showing an old classic in a cafe where customers just pay for the food and drink they consume. Some city centres set up large outdoor cinema screens and deck chairs in squares or parks close to retail units, so shoppers can enjoy a break from shopping.

The average revenue per screening is counted through ticket sales, but free and loss leading ticket prices allow companies to enhance their services with this entertainment, and then make more sales on their primary business.

What Makes Pop Up Cinemas Different?

Chains of cinemas in the UK, such as VUE, Cineworld, Empire Cinemas and Odeon offer large premises with multiple screens, and a daily programme of screenings showing a wide range of films seven days a week.

Their modern facilities have seats fixed to a raked or sloped floor, meaning the tiered seats give a good view of the screen for every audience member. The risks of a person’s head blocking the view of the person behind them are reduced. And the sound system and screening technology will constantly strive to give an immersive experience for viewers.

Modern cinema complexes are well designed for accessibility, toilets, food and drink provision, and are supported by informative websites. Some also offer special ticket prices, subscription packages, reward point systems, and special events.

Independent cinemas are usually the older, traditional style of cinema building. There will be fewer screens, and the heritage buildings don’t often offer the steep raking for chairs. But these venues try to adapt their buildings and technology to meet the expectations of a modern cinema-going audience.

Traditional and multiplex cinemas aren’t pop-up cinema venues, as they were purpose built to show films. But they can host pop-up events, such as a special screening of a live event in another part of the country or world.

Pop Up Cinemas take place outdoors or in rooms designed for other purposes. Pop-up screens in a cafe, for example, can give a decent view to the audience, but it won’t be as well designed as the complex screening and won’t be immersive. That’s why much of the pop up cinema market is dominated by classic and well known films, whereas a multiplex audience has a high preference for popular blockbuster movies.

The Advantages of Pop Up Cinemas

Given the technological advantages of the traditional cinema multiplex, why would anyone have a preference for pop up cinemas?

Sometimes it’s to do with price. Attending an inexpensive or even free event has obvious advantages over the ticket prices of a chain cinema’s offering, especially when you consider the optional add ons of 3D, premier seats, etc.

Others may be attracted by the chance to watch a well loved film on a big screen, and sharing the experience with friends or loved ones.

The location can also be a draw factor, especially if the temporary event is held at a more convenient place than getting to a multiplex. They might be a more family friendly envionment, depending on the venue chosen.

Mostly, though, the visitor’s interest and attraction to pop-up cinema screenings comes from its novelty. You’ll remember a night out with friends at an outdoor cinema for many years, and a lazy afternoon in a cafe watching a film can mean a break from the usual weekend duties without making a special effort.

Pop-up cinema is also a great way for filmmakers to get their films shown to their friends, supporters and collaborators. Watching an audience reaction can really help hone your editing skills, seeing which bits of the film succeeded or dragged, and giving you a chance to refine it before making film festival entries. These nights are particularly successful if you hire a venue with other filmmakers, as you each bring in something to screen, money for the deposit, and a network from which to draw a substantial audience.

Pop-up Cinema Market Size

The cinema industry attracts constantly changing audience numbers. 2018 saw a continuation of the upward industry trends in audience numbers, which had been rising over the past decade. Then along came Covid-19, and between government restrictions, social distancing fears, and more laterly perhaps people being out of the habit of attending screenings.

But added to the complexity of a changing market size thanks to a global pandemic, the value of the pop-up cinema industry in the UK is unknown because the figures aren’t collated in the same way they are for multiplex and independent cinemas.

So there’s no official source where the pop-up cinema market was valued and tracked, and we don’t know to what extend the UK may have a share in the global pop-up cinema market. We do know the market is growing, because of the reported success of individual companies and the increasing presence of large screens in pubic places and signs for venues referred as a pop-up cinema.

Pop-up cinema is a niche of the market, which means it has a small market share of the overall filmed entertainment market.

According to Statista, in 2020, the gross revenue of the filmed entertainment market in the United Kingdom amounted to approximately £ 2.64 billion, down from £3.46 billion the previous year. The growth of the pop-up cinema has been noted in communities across the UK, but it will still only represent a few million.

The Luna Cinema, set up in 2012, is one of the major players in this niche market in the UK. Back in 2018, its 200 or so screenings generated a turnover in the range of £3 million, and although Covid-19 restrictions had an impact, in 2021 Companies House was notified that Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited became a person with significant control in the company.

Some of the major companies in this sector are:

  • Luna Cinema
  • Pop-up Screens
  • The Nomad Cinema
  • Picturehouse
  • Rooftop Film Club London
  • Sundown Cinema
  • Lost Lands Cinema
  • Snowcat Cinema
  • The Village Screen
  • Adventure Cinema
  • Backyard Cinema
  • Open Air Film & Chill
  • Sneaky Experience
  • Secret Cinema
  • Cinestock

But there are also an endless list of other venues and events which offer an array of entertainment opportunities to the general public, some of which aren’t even selling tickets.

Another market niche, event cinema, was worth over £35 million in the UK and Ireland back in 2014, when it accounted for more than 3% of total box office sales. According to Stephen Follows, the highest grossing UK event cinema at the time was theatre productions, whereby live performances were streamed to cinemas across the UK, and accounted for more than a third of all event cinema box office revenue.

What will the future market look like? Will the UK increase the total number of venues and events, with new entrants into the market? If the market growth of the past decade is any indication, then the answer would be yes.