Cinema Sustainability: Discovering a More Environmentally Friendly Industry

March 17, 2023
The DX Team
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Sustainability and green practices have been on the public agenda for a while now, as millions of consumers are increasingly being more interested in the matter, and that is influencing the way they spend their money.

And the cinema industry is no stranger to it.

With the UK Cinema Association’s conference dedicated to Greening the Big Screen Experience around the corner, we wanted to dive deeper into this conversation. 

We know that as a cinema manager, you have many sides of the business to juggle, and it’s a constant challenge to keep up with everything. 

That’s why, when it comes to sustainable practices and a more sustainable future for cinema, we believe technology should play its part in enabling you to be greener and more cost-efficient. 

According to David Hancock, Chief Analyst for Film and Cinema at Omdia who spent several months researching and writing the recent report Sustainable Film and Cinema: Towards Net Zero, "the key for companies to understand is how their supply and customer chain is structured, as their carbon output will be assessed not only on what they produce directly, but also indirectly under Scope 3 emissions. Taking a holistic approach to carbon emissions, but also waste, pollution and energy management will be vital.."

But, of course, in the end it’s not only about saving money or just reducing your carbon footprint. It’s also about protecting the planet and paving the way for more sustainable practices in the long term, aiming for achieving objectives such as the UN’s sustainable development goals

So, in this piece, we’re looking at ways you can reduce waste and energy consumption, from the smallest improvements to the bigger investments, and how the technology you choose supports that.

The benefits?

  • The support of younger generations expecting environmentally friendly practices in their cinema experience
  • Reduced costs in the long run
  • More operational and energetic efficiency
  • A more sustainable future for all

But let’s dive straight into it:

The Sustainability Challenge for Cinemas

Concessions are a big part of the cinema experience. So are operational items like small paper receipts or ticket stubs. 

Yet, they’re also a big source of waste. 

Add to it the need to move quickly when cleaning the theatre between shows or maintain a variety of offerings to cater to your moviegoers’ tastes and you already know you have enough complexity to deal with.

The good news: there’s been a lot of progress both from a regulatory perspective with Europe’s ban on single-use plastic for instance, but also from a practical one — with cinemas implementing refillable containers, elevated dining experiences, encouraging recycling and many, many more

Then, there’s also the large power requirements needed to run projectors, HVAC systems, and the cinema’s overall equipment, which means it would take substantial renewable energy for a multi-screen cinema to be carbon neutral.

While most cinemas use far fewer raw materials for exhibition than in previous decades because of less of a need to create celluloid prints for instance, there are still consumables that can become a source of waste. Think just about having to regularly replace the xenon lamps from your projectors.  

These issues are exacerbated when considering cinema’s need to appeal to Generation Z, a generation that consumes media on a massive scale but also is deeply passionate about sustainability. A growing majority of younger consumers say that climate inaction influences their purchasing decisions. That means the days of unsorted waste bins at cinemas must be over if the industry is going to connect with this generation.

In fact, you can set your cinema apart by branding it as the most sustainable option in the area – an attribute that will definitely draw attention.

What Cinemas Are Doing to Promote Sustainability

Many cinemas focused on converting to digital projection in the late 2000s in the wake of films like Avatar (2009). However, the next transition phase of cinema technology will likely focus on sustainability and energy efficiency. 

Cinemas around Europe, large and small, are experimenting with sustainability initiatives that may very well become industry standards within a few years.

We’re proud that right in our home country – Norway – KinoNor became perhaps the first cinema chain in the world to be certified as environmentally sustainable in 2017. Audiences responded to the sustainably initiatives so strongly that the cinema staff noticed that cinemagoers would wait patiently to sort their waste as they exited the theater.

Depot is a cinema in Lewes, UK that was built in a former brewery and opened in 2017 using sustainable practices. It was awarded the "Green Screen" award at Screen International's 2022 Big Screen Awards for promoting sustainability in its cinema, including sourcing gas and electricity from a company that only provides energy from renewable sources.

CINECITTA' Multiplexkino in Nuremberg, Germany, a cinema which has been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to reducing its energy consumption, is exploring the possibility of operating its entire multiplex with hydropower leveraging two small nearby hydroelectric power stations.

In France, major chains like Pathé now have dedicated sustainability strategies, as is the case for major brands around the world, and there is a national initiative to assess energy expenditure of cinemas and how they can improve that in the short-long term. 

Similar discussions are happening throughout Europe. Let’s not forget UNIC’s Circular Economy Group working on all things related to a sustainable future for our industry.

The most important aspect of these initiatives is to show that there are a variety of ways for cinemas to be more sustainable depending on the resources and environment available where the cinema is located.

Saving Money While Caring for the Environment

As we can see from the examples above, sustainability practices are not only better for the environment, but they are also more cost-effective for cinemas as well. 

And there are many more solutions to consider as a cinema operator, ranging from hardware to software solutions. These are just some to get you started:

Hardware-focused decisions

  • Choose laser projectors that use less power and generate less heat, which can lead to cost savings and a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Use devices that have been designed for durability and repairability, so that they can be easily fixed and reused instead of being discarded.
  • Recycle or refurbish old projection equipment instead of simply throwing them away, including donating them to a non-profit cinema organization.

Delivery chain solutions

  • Choose e-delivery instead of physical DCPs 
  • Engage with suppliers and logistics providers that prioritize sustainability in their operations, such as using electric or hybrid vehicles for delivery and using renewable energy sources.
  • Use regional suppliers to reduce transportation emissions and promote local economies.
  • Use packaging materials that are recyclable or biodegradable and optimize packaging sizes to reduce waste.

Digital and cloud-based solutions

  • Use cloud services that are powered by renewable energy sources, as some providers have made significant strides in this area.
  • Optimize cloud usage to minimize energy consumption and carbon emissions, such as by turning off unused resources and using virtual servers instead of physical ones.
  • Use cloud services that prioritize data security and privacy, as these are often also associated with more efficient and sustainable operations.

Not all these practices may be realistic solutions for the entire industry. Each cinema can determine what initiatives will work best to promote sustainability and conserve resources – including revenue.

How DX Promotes Sustainability in Cinemas

At DX, we are committed to building our products and our company in an environmentally sustainable way. Our mission is long-term, and in line with one of our core values of being great today and better tomorrow our sustainability efforts will increase over time. Here are some of the ways that we are working toward more sustainable operations:

  • Helping our customers digitize their workflows which decrease waste, like paper usage, over time.
  • Enabling a higher degree of effectiveness and data-driven decision-making to help our customers reduce overconsumption, such as in food and beverage inventory.
  • Finding partners with the same goals – our main cloud computing partner, Amazon Web Services, has committed to a path towards 100% clean energy-powered data centers by 2025.
  • Establishing our first internal Sustainability Committee. This body will be tasked with identifying and leading our future sustainability efforts, including reducing our carbon footprint.
  • Operating as a distributed, virtual-first-oriented company. Our efforts to build a strong virtual culture enable us to create value while reducing our internal travel needs, which in turn reduces emissions.

We know that there is far more work to be done. 

But one of the things many of us love about cinema is how it brings people together – and bringing people together in a more sustainable way is a tremendous opportunity to do good for the industry and the planet.

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