How to organise outdoor movie sessions

Watching open air cinema is not only a cultural activity that allows you to enjoy the warmer months of the year (June, July, August and September): it also fosters social cohesion between people who live in the same town or neighbourhood and, in the case of companies and institutions, it is a powerful ally for branding and corporate reputation. But how do you organise outdoor cinema sessions? We will see it below.

Why bet on outdoor cinema?

There are many reasons why it is worth considering organising outdoor cinema sessions, in addition to those described. For example, this type of event is perceived as a playful and festive act, which helps to associate the name of the organising company with positive aspects. Likewise, in times of pandemic due to COVID-19, this type of event gives the opportunity to recover a certain sense of normality and in a safe way, at a time when cultural and leisure activities have been significantly reduced or restricted.

On the other hand, these sessions usually have an affordable cost and do not require large investments (except when it comes to the more sophisticated drive-ins). It is enough with a giant screen, a projector or a content player, high-powered speakers and an open space with access to an electricity source in which viewers can be distributed, be it an interior patio, gardens, a plaza, a esplanade or even the beach. As for the seats, it is possible to offer folding chairs, although many times it is the spectators themselves who will bring their own seats: beach chairs, cushions, blankets or towels … Of course: due to the coronavirus, it will be necessary to leave a minimum distance of 1.5 m between people.

It should also be noted that any organisation or group of people can launch this project: a town hall, a cultural association, a community of neighbours, a community centre…

The steps to create a summer outdoor cinema

Once the decision is made to organise outdoor cinema sessions, the promoters will have to carry out the following tasks.

Choice of films

First of all, it will be necessary to determine if our outdoor cinema will only host one film or more. In the latter case, it will be necessary to consider whether to opt for a thematic film cycle, with a common thread between all the selected titles, or if it is better to opt for shorts or feature films without any relationship between them.

However, the choice of films to be exhibited is a fundamental aspect, since this will determine, together with the technical aspects and other organisational issues, the success or failure of this initiative. To get it right, you have to consider aspects such as the availability of copies, the price of copyrights, the artistic quality of the film, the relationship of the plot with the place and the audience it is directed to or the type of audience it is targeting. It is intended to attract, especially if we have in mind a movie pass for the whole family. For financial reasons, it can hardly be a premiere movie.

The production

Production encompasses the financial, administrative and legal aspects of the project. In other words, it is about obtaining the permits to carry out the pass or the passes – for this, you have to ask for authorisation from the City Council of the municipality where the films are going to be broadcast – and make sure that the organisers have the financing necessary to carry out your idea.

The cost of this action not only includes the expenses corresponding to the electricity supply or the possible rental of the space, but also the payment for the copyright of the projected film, if any, and the promotional actions on social networks, e- mailing and other conventional advertising supports. If the company already has indoor LED screens, you can take advantage of them to announce this appointment.

One way to cover these costs, if the company does not want – or cannot – attribute the expenses to some previous budget item, is to resort to formulas such as sponsorship, patronage, crowdfunding, charge a small entrance fee to viewers or play adverts before the movie screening. To opt for subsidies, it will be very useful to identify companies or institutions that are already supporting activities similar to summer cinemas.

It is also essential to obtain the broadcasting rights for the film, to ensure that the material has been legally obtained and disseminated and that an authorisation is available. There are three main ways to achieve this.

  • Obtain the authorisation of the director, which is the fastest way to access the film. For this, it is advisable to make a formal request for the film detailing the objectives and the geographical location of the project, possible broadcast dates and how the screening will be carried out. The main person in charge of the initiative must also sign the petition.
  • Request the authorisation of the distributor and pay the royalties, when the rights of the films to be screened have been transferred by the producer or director to a distributor. The contact can be made through any of the channels that it has enabled for it: telephone, postal or electronic mail, social networks, etc.
  • Request the film on loan to cultural institutions. In our country, there are numerous cultural institutions that are in charge of transferring, or renting cheap prices, films to be exhibited at non-profit events: cultural associations, film festivals, film libraries, embassies, consulates, film schools … The way Contact with these institutions is identical to that specified in the case of distributors.

As the projection date of each film approaches, the organisers will have to be attentive to the weather forecast and, if rain or conditions that hinder or impede the show are expected, they will have to communicate the suspension of the session or its postponement (We will have to think about possible alternatives if this happens). The same happens with other causes of force majeure.

At the end of the event, it is recommended to echo it in the regular communication channels of the organising entity, both for reasons of corporate image and to arouse expectation and interest in the event on future occasions.