Pathé subsidiary Cinémas Pathé Gaumont — one of Europe’s largest exhibition chains — operates 133 theaters with more than 1,300 screens throughout France, the Benelux region and Switzerland. Which means that when it comes to market growth, this industry leader must look beyond building new multiplexes.
“The network of theaters in our principal territories is now very dense,” says Cinémas Pathé Gaumont CEO Aurélien Bosc. “Our priority is to consolidate our position within those territories while revitalizing the filmgoing experience.”
Since taking over in 2018, Bosc has overseen a strategy of inner consolidation and outward development.
In 2019, the circuit owned by Jérôme Seydoux acquired the French group CineAlpes and the Benelux-based EuroScoop, adding 22 more locations to its roster. At the same time, Bosc and his team have seized opportunities across the African continent, where they have a number of upcoming greenfield developments in Tunisia, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Morocco.
Still, the exhibitor’s biggest project has been one of upmarket transformation, overseeing a half a billion-dollar investment and modernization plan to refurbish existing theaters and develop new and premium offerings. On that front, Pathé Gaumont now operates more than 100 premium theaters, and holds a near monopoly on Imax, Dolby Cinema and 4DX theaters throughout its territories.
“Offering the highest quality technologies combined with ever greater comfort seems the most relevant path to follow,” Bosc says. “Because now more than ever, the customers are very demanding.”
In order to meet those demands, this upmarket revamp must extend beyond the silver screen. “Today, the theatrical outing has to stand apart,” Bosc says. “We have to provide our customers with an extended social outing experience and offer them a great show defying all comparison with at-home viewings.”
With that in mind, Pathé Gaumont has also followed a data-driven strategy to rethink the front-end experience. “The fact that nine out of 10 tickets are now sold online has given us an incredible opportunity,” says the CEO. “Digital ticketing has put an end to long wait-lines at the main entrance, and that allows us to reconvert or transform those large surface areas toward new means, all with an eye toward improving the customer experience.”
And if such open space becomes a lounge where filmgoers can linger over a drink, or a restaurant where they might share a bite before a screening, it thus becomes a new commercial opportunity for the exhibitor to seize.
“Once we’re able to track our clients’ interests and ticket-buying habits we can also connect with them,” says Bosc. “Being able to create a direct link with the customer is a godsend for the exhibitor.”
While Pathé Gaumont used its collected data to reach out and connect with loyal customers over the long months of pandemic-mandated lockdowns, the exhibitor has since employed that asset to drive admissions by playing a more active role in the marketing process, and as Bosc sees it, forcing a paradigm change.
“By capitalizing on our knowledge of moviegoers and the unique size of our customer bases, we could partner with major distributors, especially with U.S. studios, earlier on in the value chain. Together, we have jointly built an ambitious and innovative way to promote films via our digital ecosystem, and the results have been stellar.”