Zioga P & Vélez-Serna M (2021) Interaction Design for Audiences: A Proposition for Building Resilience and Recovery for COVID-safe Independent Cinemas. Audiences beyond the multiplex: understanding the value of a diverse film culture, University of Glasgow, UK, 02.03.2021-03.03.2021. https://www.beyondthemultiplex.net/session-9-audiences-accessibility-and-responding-to-the-pandemic/
As in the broader cultural sector, COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges for cinema exhibitors in the UK and world-wide. Venues have been forced to close for months or operate with substantial uncertainty and reduced capacity. Still, their position remains precarious and the challenges to the sustainability of the sector are ongoing: changing restrictions and associated increased costs, reduction in production and distribution pipelines. The British Film Institute highlighted that the pandemic poses an existential threat especially to the independent exhibitors, and those operating in remote or deprived areas. Thus, COVID-19 has also highlighted existing inequalities, the digital divide, and the need to expand the audiences’ diversity.
Meanwhile, in sectoral events, panels have reflected on how exhibitors and audiences have become more accustomed to accessing media experiences online, and this new digital literacy will support cinemas’ efforts to attract cinemagoers in their reopening. Prior to COVID-19, the use of interaction design for new cinematic experiences had attracted the interest of festivals, filmmakers and researchers. In this position paper, we argue that interaction design and technologies can help independent cinemas to engage and galvanise new audiences to patronise COVID-safe venues. From low-end online platforms, to high-end immersive experiences, new technologies are transforming connectivity across society, and have the potential to support access for D/deaf, neurodivergent, and disabled audiences, but adoption by exhibitors is so far limited. We outline the research needs and priorities in this field. These include identifying facilitators and obstacles to industry adoption of interactive forms, and mapping experiences and attitudes across the sector. Together with directions for immediate practical solutions, it is crucial to gather critical data for future research use, in order to pave the way for long-term solutions and design innovation, so that the sector can build resilience, recover and reach underserved audiences.