12 JUN 2024

Hannah Jones: “We need to provide cinemas with a rich catalog of our familiar classics”

The Senior Distribution Manager at Magic Light Pictures discusses children's engagement with the big screen and reveals Magic Light's 360-degree strategy for each theatrical title.

12 JUN 2024

Hannah Jones

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Magic Light Pictures is a prolific film and TV series producer and distributor that also distributes titles for theatrical release. Hannah Jones, Senior Distribution Manager, discusses children's engagement with the big screen and reveals Magic Light's 360-degree strategy for each movie.

What is Magic Light's strategy for the theatrical window business?
"We continue to work closely and collaboratively with our cinema partners to create an engaging year-round program of Magic Light titles for audiences in the UK. Where possible, we lean into seasonal programming and work closely with cinemas to determine the most suitable release schedule. That takes into consideration both the competition and our objectives as a business. We are also expanding our theatrical presence internationally by launching exciting new partnerships and releasing our specials in new territories such as Australia and New Zealand. There has been a focus on new content this year, with the recent launch of our second 'Pip and Posy' cinema show and the upcoming UK release of our most recent special, 'Tabby McTat.' We need to provide cinemas with a rich catalog of our familiar classics, which can be combined in different ways to create appealing one-hour double bills, but we also recognize the increasing need for new and bespoke preschool cinema content, and we've tried to prioritize that."

What is the balance between the films you screen in the UK and those you screen abroad?
"There is much familiarity with Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's books and their film adaptation produced by Magic Light Picture in the UK, and that translates to an increased amount of theatrical activity compared with other territories, but that's not to say there isn't a level of international familiarity. Our worldwide distribution in the realms of TV, home entertainment, and festival participation has garnered a level of international recognition that lends itself to theatrical distribution. We work with broadcasters, distributors, and dubbing studios to produce the highest quality dubs, and we are always looking for opportunities to share localized films with audiences worldwide. It's important for us not to adopt a 'one size fits all' approach but rather to treat each territory individually and respect the local movie-going traditions and experiences. What works in one territory may not work in another, and we rely on the expertise of our international partners who know their audiences well and can work with us to create an appealing cinematic offering, keep customers coming back, and get audiences to engage with our wonderful stories and characters."

How could you describe the current audience's engagement with movie theaters?
"It's been fascinating to see the cinema landscape shift in the wake of Covid, and it's been great to see preschool content and other events going from strength to strength. Preschool programming offers a different kind of experience where families can have a great day out at a reduced price, and although new content is key, we have found that audiences love to return to the big screen time and time again to watch familiar favorites like 'The Gruffalo' and 'Room on the Broom,' as well as valuing brand new bespoke cinema content. We've also found that our audiences enjoy and appreciate elements of interactivity such as games and singalongs, and the expectation that children should sit still and be quiet in the cinema doesn't apply to preschool screenings. We want children to sing, play, and enjoy every moment of the experience. One thing that motivates us is that when children see a Magic Light production, it may be their first cinema trip. That is a special thing we cherish deeply, and we will continue to strive to create a fun, inclusive, and relaxed environment for families and the best first cinema experience a child can have."

Do you also create a 360° strategy around these cinema titles?
"Marketing is vital and is the key cog of the wheel, and tying cinema releases with other brand activities is important. This year is Gruffalo's 25th anniversary, with a whole host of activities running throughout the year, from special edition books to brand activations worldwide; it would be remiss of us not to tie in our cinema activity with all of this. For 'Pip and Posy,' we are releasing our plush toys. That has tied in with the second cinema show, so our toy partner Bandai created some bespoke cinema plush, with Pip and Posy holding some popcorn. We also work very hard to make sure we support the cinemas with our own marketing activity. That includes partnering with influencers and getting great content from them, paid social ads, competition bundles, and activity sheets. That is an example of something mutually beneficial for cinemas and Magic Light because customers engage with the brands, and it increases time at cinemas. We must produce the best quality marketing materials that match the excellence of our specials and content on the screen."

By Romina Rodriguez