How to Save an Amsterdam Movie Theater? With Web Video, of Course

DraftFCB's Upload Cinema Brings Online Clips to the Big Screen

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Wouter Boon
Wouter Boon
As the founder of Amsterdam Ad Blog, I was a little disappointed with our city's meager performance in Cannes last month. Except for the wonderful Film Grand Prix, won by Tribal DDB for Philips, there was no gold, and only a few silver and bronze. One of those winners deserves some extra attention. Upload Cinema by DraftFCB, Amsterdam, won a silver Lion for promoting the smallest cinema of Amsterdam, De Uitkijk. The reason I like it is that it proves you don't need a million-dollar budget to come up with a great idea.

I knew beforehand Upload Cinema would win a Lion. Not just because it won several awards in the Netherlands already, but because its creative character is instantly revealed by its simplicity. Like most big ideas, it can be explained in a single phrase: "Taking web films to big screen."

The idea was conceived when Dagan Cohen, head of the creative department at DraftFCB, met Barbara Wijn, managing director of De Uitkijk. She told Dagan she had a very difficult time keeping the cinema afloat. Apart from the fact that the charming old cinema is practically invisible in its location on the Prinsengracht, in the heart of Amsterdam, it was very difficult for her to compete with all those huge, comfortable Pathe cinemas that have popped up all over town. And although De Uitkijk focuses on art-house movies, thus attracting a very specific crowd, people are spoiled nowadays and don't like cramped cinemas with crappy chairs anymore.

Amsterdam's De Uitkijk cinema
Amsterdam's De Uitkijk cinema
The solution to the problem is a unique form of content that has created a whole new reason to visit De Uitkijk. According to a monthly changing central theme, the (online) members of Upload Cinema are asked to submit online videos that are freely accessible on the internet.

Subsequently the editorial staff -- which consists in part of theme-related experts -- select the best films. The result is an art-house-worthy compilation of extremely diverse stuff that is only matched by the theme, shown on the first Monday of every month. In June, for example, when I visited an Upload Cinema night, the theme was "messing with the brand." It brought together the best unauthorized, banned and spoofed advertising on the web. The concept is so successful that art house cinema's all over the world have requested to adopt the format.

The reason why Upload Cinema is truly creative is that it merges two domains that theoretically lie miles apart from each other. The art-house domain, consisting of high-brow long-form content, worked for an educated crowd, on the one hand. And the internet domain, with its long tail of easily consumed short-form content, worked for anyone who accidentally stumbles upon it. Upload Cinema has brought the two together by joining the forces of the internet community and an editorial staff, thus producing an entirely new form of quality content.

Wouter Boon, founder of Boon Strategy, writes the Amsterdam Ad Blog.
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