The exhibition sector is the collective name for the theatrical retail side of the UK and Ireland’s film industry. This countrywide collection of cinemas largely represented by the UKCA in the UK, stands as film distribution’s key partner in launching titles into the public arena. The relationship is symbiotic, relying on strong inter-company relations to weather often tough times and trading negotiations.
Whether local run independents, small boutique operators or multiplex chains, exhibitors seek to provide the best possible big screen experience for cinema audiences. This can encompass various facilities including optimal screens and sound, comfortable seating, a strong food & beverage offer and a hopefully diverse selection of films.
Whilst exhibitors drive significant revenue through concessions, customer loyalty schemes and cinema advertising, it is generally agreed that films are the essential draw for cinemagoers. Exhibitors effectively rent a film’s rights from distributors to play on their screens, then pay an agreed portion of the box office receipts back to that rights holder.
Exhibitors retain almost all the revenue accrued from concession sales, cinema advertising, in-cinema/website marketing assets and loyalty card/membership schemes. They do not share these profits with distributors, but do require such revenue to help cover overhead costs such as staffing, insurance, equipment maintenance and building’s rent.
Although exhibitors and distributors share the same ambition to attract cinemagoers to experience films on the big screen, both have their own business priorities. With several new films released every week, competition for screen space is fierce, and as such exhibitors and distributors will negotiate weekly to determine how and where a film plays to audiences.