Novo Cinemas: Creating the Ideal Cinematic Experience
Debbie Stanford-Kristiansen, CEO of the pioneering entertainment destination in the Middle East explains why customer care is paramount to drawing in audiences.
A trip to the cinema is no longer a guilty pleasure, but instead has become a regular ritual for many UAE residents, with all major shopping malls boasting plush theatres. Facilitating this culture are movie theatre chains, with industry leader Novo Cinemas creating the perfect setting for movie goers. Widely recognised by their legacy as pioneers in the region, Novo Cinemas, previously known as Grand Cinemas, was established in 2000. In 2012, the Qatar-based diversified and fully integrated media, entertainment, and urban beautification group, Elan Group acquired the company and completely reimagined the brand.
"We wanted to resonate with our younger audiences; therefore, we started our rebranding process by doing intensive research into our customer's expectations. After much deliberation and many workshops later, we came up with 'Novo' which means new in Latin. It was a perfect fit for us as we were moving into a new chapter of the company's existence and it was met with an overwhelming, positive response," explains the dynamic CEO.
To maintain its status as a leader in the regional cinema industry, Novo Cinemas is continuously expanding its offerings and upgrading its cinema locations to respond to the community's needs and wants through strategic partnerships. The chain currently has 15 locations operating across three territories - the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain - with more locations set to open in the coming year and in 2018 and beyond.
"In line with our mission to provide our customers with the highest level of service, our partnership with Qatar Airways has propelled the cinematic experience to a luxurious getaway with our 7-Star VIP screens. In addition to this, we regularly take our customer's feedback on what they would like to see in a theatre. Most recently, one of the requests was if it would be possible to bring their children to experience the VIP offerings. In light of this, we decided to make the 7-Star VIP screens and services available for children on Fridays and Saturdays, from 10am-4pm, at a discounted rate provided they are accompanied by an adult. Proving to be the ideal family treat for the weekend, it has already met with a phenomenal response with sold-out screenings," says Kristiansen.
"We have something very special and unique launching very soon, which is the result of our partnership with IMG Worlds of Adventure. For Novo, this is the ultimate venture which will mark our territory in the new age of entertainment by marrying theme parks and movies to deliver the most immersive movie experience possible.
"As we continue to expand our offerings in current locations, we are also focused on increasing our footprint in the region. Within the next six weeks, we will be adding another 18 screens, to our existing 146, with six additional screens at Dubai Festival City and 12 screens at IMG Worlds of Adventure."
More than Movies
"We view our movie theatres as event and entertainment hubs. Not only do we showcase the latest Hollywood and Bollywood movies, Arabic and other language content, but we strive to showcase alternative content. When there is an appetite for other foreign language films, we satisfy it and have in the past screened Korean movies as well as award winning European films in partnership with EFS (European Film Screenings). We have also shown the much anticipated El Classico football games in cinema, as well as the Europa League Championship, live boxing from Las Vegas with Manny Paquio and Mayweather, Bolshoi Ballet and many other forms of alternative content. It ultimately comes down to constantly understanding and listening to what the audience wants and delivering it to them.
"We are also big supporters of local and regional talent - everyone has to start somewhere so we actively and passionately support local and regional filmmakers," expresses the CEO.
"Our main banking partner is Mashreq, which offers customers a special discount on tickets - ensuring that customers have the best experience simultaneously getting their best value for money."
Whilst Novo Cinemas has a strong community customer base, the chain offers its locations as a venue for corporate events.
"Organisations choose cinemas to host team events, as it provides an ideal creative space where large groups are excited by the ambience. We have state-of-the-art auditoriums and the latest technology which can accommodate corporate events such as conferences, product launches and training seminars.
"We have a great corporate customer base - for example, we have had Emirates Airlines host training seminars in our cinemas, and we are constantly welcoming new customers to our locations across the region.
Novo Cinemas is planning on introducing multi-purpose screens for further alternative use in the near future.
"Our IMG Worlds of Adventure location will have a multipurpose screen where live concerts, stand-up comedy shows or cultural events can be held. At Novo, we want to bring people together through different means of entertainment, but of course movies will always be our core value," she adds.
The cinema brand is also focused on building a relationship with schools and universities by hosting education-based programming within its portfolio.
"IMAX has an extensive library of educational content which we have access to, due to our partnership. We invite students from schools to enrich their learning experience by challenging conventional methods of retaining knowledge. As technology evolves, Novo Cinemas is always at the forefront to deliver the latest innovations to our audiences. Our motto is "A Great Time Out," which simply put is a mission to provide something for everybody and create those cherished moments and experiences."
The Future for Novo
Dubai's movie scene has evolved, playing host to Hollywood and Bollywood blockbuster productions and fostering festivals such as the famous Middle East ComicCon, which bestowed the coveted title of the "Most Innovative Cinema" to Novo Cinemas this year.
"It was a very proud moment for myself and the team, which is comprised of highly-creative, passionate and dedicated people. Everybody has a different personality and brings something special to the table. We have recently delivered exceptional premieres with Star Trek and Guardians of the Galaxy, and we are looking forward to the much anticipated regional premieres for Pirates of the Caribbean - Salazar's Revenge and the long awaited Wonder Woman this month. Novo Cinemas is always trying to push the boundaries, a belief which resonates with the ComicCon audiences as well.
"As we gear up to an exciting period in the Novo Cinemas journey with new screens and locations being introduced across the region very soon, we are also working on re-designing our website and our app, which will include new features in response to valued customer feedback.
"Cinemas will always draw in audiences because of their appeal. Of course, you can watch films from the comfort of your home, but the experience that can be shared with family, friends or an audience is something that cannot be replaced. The cinematic experience will always be evolving and Novo Cinemas continuously aims to raise the bar higher," concludes Kristiansen.
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