Haeundae-gu, Busan, Republic of Korea,
The Reason We Visit Theaters, Oh Sujin, the Team Leader of Space Content at CJ CGV
"The Space, Where People Connect Each Other & Experience Pleasant Memories"
The wind of change is blowing in the theater district these days. The biggest reason may be the decline in sales due to the Pandemic, but changes in theaters that fit the trend of the times are also indispensable. The spatial content team at CJ CGV is considering various projects using the space in theaters to cope with such a change. Since setting up a team early last year, it has been passing through the Pandemic, starting with maximizing the audience's theater experience through special halls and increasing the list of things they can enjoy in the theater. We had an interview to find out new and diverse attempts using theaters from Oh Sujin, the team leader of the space content team at CJ CGV, who is thinking about 'sustainable space.'
- What does the spatial content team do?
= As its name implies, the team is thinking about tangible and intangible content to fill the space in theaters. We have two main tasks. The first is to plan and launch special halls that allow visitors to experience a new way of watching films, and the other is to discover, plan, and launch new space projects.
- What occasioned that? Did you plan the team before the Pandemic?
= There has been a group considering new businesses apart from movie screening businesses in the company. However, after the pandemic, consensus on the concerns and implementation about new business grew, and we reorganized the group to prepare for the movie market that will recover when COVID-19 is over and to find new business opportunities.
- What projects have you been promoting since the team launched in July 2021?
= The actual team was launched in January 2021, but its name was changed to 'Spatial Content Team' in July of the same year. At that time, it was already a year after COVID-19, so focusing on the moviegoers' changed movie watching behaviors, we opened a 'Suite Cinema' in CGV Yeonnam in July 2021 and designed to allow them to watch movies in a physically non-contact environment. In the case of Suite Cinema in CGV Yeonnam, box and lounge types are mixed, but in December, we introduced a more evolved suite cinema where all seats are box-typed in CGV Seomyeon, Busan to provide a 100% private environment. In addition, 'Tempur Cinema,' which was available only at Ciné de Chef, was opened further in CGV Yeouido and CGV Pangyo by reinforcing a more private mood to create an environment that looks like lying on a bed in a real hotel room.
In terms of new businesses, we have been thinking about the sports sector for a long time. Although COVID-19 continues for a long time, we think health-related sectors that encourage people to take care of their bodies and emit energy with others offline can sustain as a megatrend in the future. Among them, we paid attention to 'sports climbing,' which can maximize the advantages of the space in a theater with growing interest in the market. In fact, the person in charge of leading the project is already a user who has been enjoying sport climbing for years has been very helpful, too. We have had many difficulties in pushing for a new project completely new to us, but fortunately, we successfully opened 'PEAKERS' in CGV Piccadilly 1958 in January this year.
- Tell us about the reactions of the audience and the users.
= The Pandemic has changed the trend of leisure activities a lot, and among them, movie theaters have been affected greatly. The COVID-19 situation will soon calm down, but a moviegoer's need to watch a movie in a comfortable and luxurious atmosphere with their lover, family, and friend is expected to continue in the future. From this point of view, the 'Suite Cinema' project was launched. Originally, the theater was large enough for about 150 people to watch a movie together, but the capacity was drastically reduced to 20 people. In addition, seats and other F&B services have been strengthened so that movie watching can be remembered as a major leisure activity. Fortunately, our customers are showing satisfaction with the luxurious and private environment, and more and more people are visiting the Suite Cinema theater first when the movie they want to see is released.
As for PEAKERS, since it was the first case for CGV to convert the theater for a completely different use, we were very curious about the results. Although a theater is actually a very large space that can accommodate 200 to 300 people, it is not easy to feel the sense of space because the movie viewing environment itself has low illumination, and everyone is supposed to look at the screen only. After opening PEAKERS, we've got lots of responses from the audience saying, 'It has a very high ceiling, the space is very large, and it is comfortable, etc.' They are amazed and interested in the fact that the theater space can be converted into a sport climbing place.
- Even before the Pandemic, CGV had been conducting various projects to utilize the theater space by introducing 'Mission Break,' the space for a room escape game, or 'Bowling Pub,' which combined a dining pub, a bowling alley, and a sports arcade. Can we see the space content team's business in this extension?
= That's right. In addition to Mission Break and Bowling Pub, a comic book cafe 'lolol' is one of the businesses our team manages. Since our main task is to read market trends, discover sustainable business items, plan and launch them, we have tried many small but interesting businesses. I think the experience we gained through those projects could be the foundation that allowed us to make bold attempts like PEAKERS.
- Theme parks of content companies such as Disneyland and Universal Studios sometimes come to mind. Are you also planning projects that utilize the content made by the affiliates?
= We are not contemplating a theme park-level space project yet, but we keep trying to cooperate with our affiliates. In the case of Mission Break I mentioned earlier, it operates themes using the content IP New Journey to the West and the drama series Signal produced by CJ ENM, one of our affiliates. Since CJ ENM creates various content regardless of genres, we expect that we will have many more opportunities to collaborate with them in the future.
- Technical help will be needed to implement the space you envision. Tell us how you enter into a technical partnership.
= CJ 4DPLEX is a subsidiary of CGV. Besides 4DX, a special technology theater, we have been working together for technical collaborations in various fields such as VR games. CJ 4DPLEX's ScreenX, a 'sideways' version of IMAX, is also in the process of reviewing as a major technology for dynamically expressing and operating a specific space itself in addition to a theater.
- What do you keep in mind most when looking for audience tastes or interests and deciding new content?
= Basically, I try to have an interest in the latest trends, read related books, and visit as many hot places as possible. However, I think the most important thing as a space operator is 'sustainability'. What matters most in determining a new business is how long it will be able to receive customers' attention rather than a short-term sparkling item. That's the most important point.
- It seems important to consistently continue CGV brand identity while using its space in many ways.
= The image that 'CGV is a movie theater' is already recognized strongly in the market. However, within that limitation, we focus on developing various special theater brands and launching new space business brands such as PEAKERS to expand the brand image to the point that 'CGV is a multi-platform that provides various leisure activities.' In the end, we are considering how to expand CGV as a lifestyle entertainment brand with various businesses within its context.
- Tell us about the direction of the spatial content team after the Pandemic.
= The Pandemic will make us predict the market harder. However, my team will think and implement harder to find out how to evolve the film screening business, the basis of CGV Group, and maximize our customers' experience, while figuring out new offline spatial businesses which are sustainable.
- Your space content team is carrying out projects that newly define theaters. Tell us your idea about a movie theater.
= In fact, I think theaters have already been a place more than simply watching movies. Even if we watch the same movie, we will have different memories and precious experiences relying on who we watch it with or how we interact with them. We have already consumed lots of content through various media such as YouTube and OTTs. However, a theater will remain as the space that presents each person with a special experience and memory of the particular moment.
- Tell us how you first started your career in the content industry.
= Personally, I love watching movies. CGV itself is my workplace, but it is also a place that provides the memories of good movies. In fact, before joining CGV, I did overseas sales and marketing in a completely different business field, but I had an unexpected chance to join CGV. I used to work for a company that runs a movie theater for 10 years, but I only worked on concerning other businesses other than the movie theaters. In a sense, through my previous career that belonged to a completely different industry, I can do the work confidently now, I think.
- What kind of space do you want to create in the future?
= Due to the Pandemic, they say offline businesses are having a hard time, and some even say that it is the end of offline businesses. However, we hope to meet people with similar tastes and hobbies and get a lot of fun through the interactions. This is a human instinct that even a pandemic like COVID-19 cannot stop. In the future, I want to think and create a lot of space where people can connect and experience pleasant memories together.