Live entertainment business leaders say they must do more than persuade cautious audiences that it’s safe to go out in a crowd: With or without a mask, they say the long pandemic – and its trailing economic woes – has fueled a trend among younger audiences to crave experiences over things.
That means even though there’s a pent-up desire to get out there, the live entertainment business has to raise the quality of the experience, both to meet audience expectations and compete with streaming, which also raised the bar during the pandemic.
Live entertainment purveyors are observing that the next generation of consumers “will live in their parents’ basement so they can use their money for experiences,” Jamie Weston, EVP and chief marketing officer for On Location said in a panel at TheGrill presented by Imax and Gerber Kawasaki.
Weston added that On Location is there to help sports, music, lifestyle and other entertainment brands to event-ize the experience to meet expectations. “We work with everyone from the NFL, the Olympics, UFC, big sports, music, and lifestyle brands to create a high-end, high touch personal experience around that event,” Weston told moderator Ross Gerber, president and CEO of Gerber Kawasaki.
Francesca Bodie, president, business development, Oak View Group (OVG), which she described the largest developer of arenas in the world with many properties in the Las Vegas area, said the company often finds a disconnect between older venues and the expectations of today’s audiences. It’s about making sure a venue provides a seamless experience, including conveniences such as food vending and merch shopping, “not because we want to, but because the fans are demanding it.
“The age of the buildings is showing much faster,” she added. Buildings from 20 years ago “look old and they look tired,” and are also not always set up for the cashless and paperless world. Beyond providing new arenas or or updating older ones, she said OVG can play a role in creating new revenue streams for the arena, including naming opportunities for key areas within a structure.
Jason Richmond, SVP and head of music for Imax Entertainment, said even a seemingly futuristic company like Imax has to make sure the venues that show off the company’s latest product are similarly cutting-edge.
“The beautiful thing about this conversation is that all those (innovations) provide top line framing for Imax,” he said, noting that Imax Live offers ultra-immersive live experiences in 190 locations across 11 countries. (That’s on top of Imax’s 1,600-plus theater locations across 87 countries.) “So when filmmakers spend massive amounts of time and creative energy and create these beautiful experiences for fans,” he said, adding that the company has dubbed its latest phase of presentation “Imax 3.0.”
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TheGrill 2022 sponsors include Loeb & Loeb, City National Bank, Gracenote, Warner Bros. Discovery, Gerber Kawasaki, Sony Pictures, Take-Two Interactive, SAG-AFTRA, New York Festivals, Samba TV and IMAX.