Podcasts at the Cinema: plugging into new audiences

Posted on July 14, 2023 by Jake Abatan

Categories: Pop-up and Event Cinema

In this blog, the ICO’s Marketing and Administration Coordinator Jake Abatan speaks to The Evolution of Horror and Ghibliotheque podcasts, as well as Sam Harris (Marketing Manager at Duke of Yorks/Duke’s at Komedia) and Bob Prosser (Marketing Manager at Depot), on why collaborating with film podcasts can help cinemas expand the films they show, as well as the audiences they show them to.

There’s arguably never been more pressure on independent cinemas to distinguish themselves with unique and vibrant events, and film podcasts can offer venues a quick and effective way of doing just that. Podcasts can give venues a reliable (and importantly, engaged) audience to tap into. They can justify taking risks on films or genres which may not have worked in the past. And then there’s the sense of event that’s baked into what podcasts do: introductions, Q&A’s and live shows are very much on the cards with these sorts of collaborations. These events can be appealing to podcasters too, giving them the chance to meet with their audience as well as present rarely-screened films on the big screen.

How podcasts can make your event unmissable

The Evolution of Horror, podcast hosted by Mike Muncer that looks at the history of the horror genre one sub-genre at a time, has been hosting regular monthly screenings at the Genesis Cinema in London since November 2022. They have also worked with cinemas such as Regent Street Cinema (London), Duke of York’s (Brighton), Cultplex (Manchester), and The Mockingbird Cinema (Birmingham). 

Each season of the podcast looks at the history of a specific sub-genre to explore the way that certain trends and fears have developed and evolved. With regular guests, ranging from film critics, filmmakers, and just plain film fanatics, it’s a format that translates well to live events. Mike tells me that, along with Becky Darke (who is a regular guest on the podcast, and helps organise their screenings), he always tries to incorporate some form of live component to events: 

“We’ll pair every screening with a live element, this could be a live podcast discussion on stage with special guests, or it could be a horror pub quiz in the foyer. We’ve even arranged a ‘live campfire ghost stories’ event in the courtyard outside the Genesis for a screening last summer!”

Including live components like this alongside film screenings gives audiences compelling reasons to revisit classic films, with experiences that can’t easily be replicated at home or in a multiplex setting. 

Mike Muncer (center), Becky Darke (left) and Pamela Hutchinson (right) standing on stage in front of a holding slide with the Evolution of Horror logo.
Mike Muncer (center), Becky Darke (left) and Pamela Hutchinson (right) before a screening The Birds at the Duke of York’s in Brighton.

A more vibrant film culture

By hosting successful podcasts, you’re by extension also welcoming the community they have fostered into your venue. Ghibliotheque—a podcast which initially began with Michael Leader sharing his love for, and lore on, the films of Studio Ghibli with his friend and colleague Jake Cunningham, but has since branched out to cover anime more broadly—has established a strong community of fans united by their love and curiousity of anime.

Podcasts undoubtedly help broaden the sorts of films audiences are interested in, contributing to a more vibrant film culture.

“In the process of developing the podcast, hosting, and keeping it going over the years, it does become a curatorial practice” Michael from Ghibliotheque tells me, “we’re working in similar ways to programmers… we’re ultimately pulling in the same direction.” 

Mike from The Evolution of Horror echoes this sentiment:

“There are many people who tell me they’ve been introduced to films [through the podcast,] that they’d never have watched before, which is so lovely. Someone once told me they stayed well away from zombie movies because they thought they were all ‘shlocky trash’ … but after hearing our discussions of the way in which zombie movies shine a light on society, politics and sociology… they gave them a try and fell in love with them.”

Both podcasts are constantly surprised at how much of their screening audience is viewing the film for the first time, even with established genre classics such as The Shining or Akira. It seems that audiences appreciate a reason to watch these films in a communal setting, and a live podcast or Q&A with a podcast they are already invested in is an enticing offer for them.

Jake Cunningham (left) and Michael Leader (right) sit at a table with two of their books on display.
Jake Cunningham (left) and Michael Leader (right) at the launch of their book, The Ghibliotheque Anime Movie Guide.

How podcasts can help make your events more successful

It certainly makes sense for venues to collaborate with podcasts, especially when it comes to films or genres that have not been tried before or have possibly underperformed sales expectations in the past. As Jake Cunningham from Ghibliotheque tells me: 

“[When you collaborate with a podcast] you’re getting a direct line to an audience. You might have this theory, ‘I wonder if anime would work here, but I don’t quite know where to start’, chances are there’s a film podcast about that specific area. So if you need advice, or help promoting to an audience, cinemas should take the chance to reach out to those experts.”

If you’re a venue curious about whether these events might work for you, social media can be a useful way of gauging a potential demand in your area. Sam Harris, Marketing Manager for Duke of York’s & Duke’s at Komedia cinemas in Brighton, told me this is how their collaboration with The Evolution of Horror on a 60th anniversary screening of The Birds initially came about: 

“It came about initially with Evolution of Horror posting on Twitter asking their followers for recommendations for cinemas or venues that may suit having them host a screening. Someone suggested one of our Brighton cinemas and tagged us in it, I followed it up with the podcast and we started talking over email.”

It’s valuable to be open to the ideas for these events coming from various parts of your organisation, not just the programming team. This can help get the wider team excited, and feel a sense of ownership with the event that translates into a more vibrant and enthusiastic environment to welcome audiences to.

For their screening of The Birds, the Duke of York’s staff dressed up and decorated the venue with bird feathers and fake blood. The marketing team even made a fun video for social which helped get audiences excited and let them know the tongue in cheek nature of the event. The event went well from their perspective, according to Sam:

“We were very pleased with the event – we sold over 200 tickets which is good for a full price screening of a film that’s been out for 60 years.”


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An opportunity to take some programming risks

For their collaboration with Ghibliotheque, Depot showed Millennium Actress. Depot’s programming team decided upon the film in consultation with Ghibliotheque, as both felt that the film’s focus on cinema history would go down well with Depot’s more cine-literate audience. Bob Prosser, Depot’s Marketing Manager, was pleased with how the event went, and said the audience seemed to get a lot from the night:

“We had a fantastic audience on the night, which was surprisingly made up mostly of people who had never seen Millennium Actress before. Michael and Jake did a fantastic job of hosting, and their intro really set the tone for a great shared cinematic experience.”

Jake Cunningham (left) and Michael Leader (right) speaking to a cinema audience in front of a holding slide that reads "Depot".
Jake Cunningham (left) and Michael Leader (right) introducing a screening of Millennium Actress at Depot in Lewes.

Depot used the event as an opportunity to canvas the audience about the potential for future anime screenings, a genre which hasn’t quite landed with their audience before, and the response was largely positive: 

“Over half of the audience gave us responses, which provided us with some really valuable data. The vast majority of the audience had visited Depot before, but only a fraction of them had come to see anime at Depot. A decent amount of the replies actually said they would have come to see this film without the podcast/event tie-in—but I would assume this is due to the quality choice of film that had been chosen.” 

While the audience shared that they would have attended without the podcast tie-in, collaborating with Ghibliotheque would have surely provided the team with an added sense of confidence that anime could be a hit in their cinema. It seems the event may have had the intended effect, with Bob sharing that Makoto Shinkai’s latest release Suzume did remarkably well, with sellout shows of their subtitled Japanese language screenings. So, if your venue is struggling with certain genres or films, looking out for film podcasts could be the best step forward.

The Evolution of Horror can be found on any podcast app. On Twitter they are @evolutionpod, and for details about upcoming events, visit www.evolutionofhorror.com/events

Ghibliotheque can be found on any podcast app. On Twitter they are @ghibliotheque, and you can find out about upcoming events via their social channels.

Enjoyed this article? Read more from the ICO blog: Where to Begin with Relaxed Screenings

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