The dancefloor for Party at the Pictures' Pretty in Pink event
The business of programming is at the heart of the cinema experience, but what does programming actually consist of? We're highlighting participants from our six-month Practical Programming course to show some different approaches to successful programming. Here Oriana Franceshi of An Lanntair in the Outer Hebrides talks about her new strand Party at the Pictures and how it successfully brought a new audience and experience to the island's mixed arts venue.
An Lanntair we’re lucky enough to have a large reliable audience for our
(mainstream) cinema programme, made up for the most part by young people aged
18–35. What we weren’t seeing, though, was this crowd showing an interest in
our wider programme.
was with the intention of altering young people’s perception of An Lanntair – to
encourage people to see us as a venue rather than just as the island’s only
cinema – that I came up with the idea for Party at the Pictures (PATP). I’d
had a few ideas of how I might accomplish this before attending the Practical
Programming course at ICO, but it wasn’t until I had met the other programmers
attending and been inspired by their creativity and ambition that I had the
confidence to suggest trying something completely new to my colleagues at An
Party at the Pictures is an all out immersive experience for audiences
have just one main events space at An Lanntair: our auditorium, which plays
host to live music, theatre, dance, cinema and a broad range of events in
between. PATP was to turn the challenge of this single space into an
opportunity rather than a disadvantage. We planned to push back the auditorium
chairs to turn the space into a dancefloor with comfy chairs and sofas around
bar would make specially-themed cocktails, not only on the night of the event
but for the entire week running up to it. The staff would also continue to
serve drinks throughout the film (normally cinema patrons at An Lanntair can’t
buy drinks during a film, similar to the policy most theatres adopt).
would be set up at the side of the stage just by the screen, and as soon as the
film ended a DJ would come on stage and start playing. The film on the screen
would be replaced by a montage of dancing scenes from films, and the lighting
would become… disco appropriate.
we were trying to turn the experience of the cinema into a special event, and
encourage the audience back for gigs and other parts of our performing arts
programme. It took me a while to arrive at the name Party at the Pictures. It
was far from my first idea, but Let’s Go To The Groovies was roundly rejected.
Distinct visuals that stand out from the venue's standard marketing helped bring new audiences
The First PATP: The
Reflektor Tapes, November 2015
'Don’t worry, Oriana:
if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Scottish people in my time living
there, it’s that they ALL LOVE indie discos.' Alison Wood, best friend and
personal motivational speaker
first PATP was a screening of The Reflektor Tapes, a documentary about Arcade
Fire, followed by an indie disco. When
I read about the film’s release, I saw an opportunity to attract a cross-over
audience of music and art film lovers, with the hope of attracting both back to
An Lanntair as a music venue.
created a Facebook event for the night, which the DJ updated regularly with
videos for the type of music our audiences could expect to hear at the
event. Gradually people began to contribute their own suggestions, which was
also plastered the town with posters and publicised the event a lot on the An
Lanntair Facebook page, including a 'ten favourite Arcade Fire songs' countdown
in the run up to PATP. Also we had a mention in the Stornoway Gazette and on
Isles FM, as well as on the Twitter feeds of various local musicians who we
thought would get people through the door.
all of the above in place, and one week to go until the first ever Party at the
Pictures, I believe we had sold four tickets. I was having sleepless nights and
was basically incapable of talking about anything other than Arcade Fire.
night of the event was probably the most stressed I’ve ever been, final exams
and nearly-missed flights included. I was so sensitive to the audience’s
reactions to the film that I couldn’t watch it with them and ended up in the
projection booth where our head technician Mike handed me a stress ball in the
shape of a pumpkin.
In the end, with a capacity of 80 (due to our comfy seating arrangement) we sold 60 tickets. On an island with a small population, where nobody had ever attempted an event of this kind before, 60 tickets wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t fantastic either. The night was a lot of fun (even I enjoyed myself eventually) and the feedback we received was really positive, encouraging us to hold another PATP.
had learned some lessons, though, to consider going forward. These were as
Friday night is not a good party night in Stornoway.
because everything is closed on a Sunday here and so people like to do their partying
on a Saturday night? I don’t know, but it was explained to me – after the event
had been arranged – that it’s really difficult to get people on a night out in
Stornoway on a Friday. In future, if we had to organise an event on the Friday
rather than the Saturday, we would need to be aware that this might require an
I should start dividing the tickets
price for a ticket at the first PATP was £10. This was pretty reasonable
considering a film at An Lanntair costs £7 normally, and the only club here
costs a fiver to get in to. But feedback I received from bar staff dealing with
customers in the run up to the event was that a lot of people couldn’t come to
both the film and the club night, and so I might have been better off offering
a ticket for the film at £7, say, and for the disco at £5.
Even when I think that my marketing material has outlined the event as clearly
as possible, people will still get confused.
had to deal with two customers who actually thought Arcade Fire were going to
be playing that night. I felt like The Grinch.
Bespoke invitations brought a personal and nostalgic touch to the marketing to Party at the Pictures
The Second PATP:
Pretty in Pink, February 2016
“The best sounds a
kid will get is in a movie theatre, with huge speakers, turned up loud.”
John Hughes, writer of Pretty in Pink
our CEO, was keen to organise another four PATP events for 2016. Just by chance
the date for the first of these was Saturday, February 13th: yes,
was particularly interested in attracting more women to this event than were
present at the last one, which I had noticed was a little heavy on the men. I
also wanted to screen something fun and a bit kitsch rather than anything too
'romantic'. In the end I settled on Pretty in Pink, which was to have its 30th
anniversary that month. I
thought a John Hughes film would be a good call: they’re nostalgic for a lot of
people but have never really gone out of style, and their soundtracks are
distinctive enough to make the Party at the Pictures link a natural one.
plan was to deck the auditorium out like a prom from the final scene of a teen
movie and to follow the screening with an '80s disco. The process of making
decorations for the event (it got to the point where every time I closed my
eyes I saw pom-poms) meant that we had a lot of pretty images to share on An
Lanntair’s Instagram, as well as repeating the same marketing steps as we had
with the last PATP. I also made up little invitations that looked like LPs and
took them round local businesses (hair dressers, tea shops etc) and again we
had themed cocktails and a special montage video playing in the background,
this time of romantic scenes from films; it was Valentine's, after all.
Oriana hard at work creating a mountain of pom poms!
response to our marketing online was fantastic, and we sold out the tickets for
the film (90 this time, thanks to some extra comfy chairs). We had a special
Valentine's offer on tickets – the ‘third wheel deal’, whereby two people could
bring a third friend for free. Seeing the potential to make some sales on the
bar, our Café Bar Manager covered the cost of decorations and the DJ: this meant
that we could offer the 'prom' part of the evening for free, and charge the
usual £7 for a cinema ticket.
night was really fun and included a balloon-drop to Madonna’s 'Like a Prayer',
the orchestration of which may be the highlight of my career so far. I’d
like to say that I was less stressed this time around, since we had sold out
the event in advance and I knew that the format worked after the last PATP’s
success. I was not less stressed. When people didn’t jump up and start dancing
the moment the music came on, I declared the whole thing ‘a fudging disaster’
(or words to that effect) and began to seriously consider a career change. A
few songs later, though, the dance floor was full and I was on it, glad that
only two of my friends had been present mere minutes ago when I decided I was
going to pack in programming completely and become a carpenter. We received a
lot of feedback saying how much people had enjoyed themselves and asking us to
organise another PATP, so we are.
The Next PATP:
Chasing Zero, May 2016
“On far shores, weary
mariners hear voices
Songs so beautiful
they cast a spell
There is no choice
but to hear.”
Dan Crockett, in Chris McClean’s short film Edges of Sanity
have a really enthusiastic surfing community here in the Outer
Hebrides, and our next PATP aims to cater to this crowd as well as
fans of electronic music. The headline act will be the performance of a live
score by electronic musician CJ Mirra to a collection of cold water surf films
by Chris McClean. Chris was winner of Best UK Film at Approaching Lines
Festival 2014 and Best Short Film at London Surf Festival 2011 and CJ Mirra,
also lead singer and guitarist of the band Swimming, has worked as a composer
with Film4, Mammejong, EpicTV and Vertigo Films, amongst many others.
well as CJ Mirra’s performance, we will be showing work by local filmmakers
Mark Lumsden, Colin Macleod and Jim Hope and displaying paintings by Laura
Maynard, a local artist who is a member of the surfing community and whose
pieces are inspired by her experiences while surfing. CJ Mirra will end the
night with a DJ set. For the first time,
PAPT will bring a live music element to the event and so tickets this time will
be £10 for the whole evening, or £5 for the late night DJ set only. It’s early days but we are optimistic for
ticket sales; we even bought 20 bean bag chairs to accommodate extra bums.
To read Dreamland Cinema's experience of setting up their first programming strand after attending Practical Programming, click here.