As one of Singapore’s small independent arts businesses, local independent cinema The Projector has always thought outside the box to keep the business vibrant and thriving. In a conversation with INTERACTIVE-MARKETINGFounder Karen Tan (pictured) explained how the brand had to revisit past marketing efforts and rethink community engagement, especially as an event and nightlife establishment that has not been spared the pandemic
While the pandemic has made it difficult for businesses to run events the way they once were, the interview with Tan revealed that events also remain an ever-growing avenue for business. The Projector primarily operates within the film scene, growing the film community and extending opportunities to the local arts and creative scene also remains integral to the brand’s overall mission.
As life in Singapore returns to normal, the independent cinema is ready to roll out the events it has planned for its 2022 schedule. Some of the events The Projector spoke with INTERACTIVE-MARKETING include the return of DJ Ginette Chittick’s Daydream Nation party on April 23, and upcoming events such as a HipHop KTV with rapper LionCityBoy, which will follow on May 13 as a new event for the company. He’s also looking forward to resuming his popular Film Quiz nights on April 27, with host comedian Sam See.
Additionally, The Projector will launch its latest corporate offering: the “Projector X: Electric Cinema”, a new cinema space at Projector, making it the company’s third cinema space. The cinema will partner with 24OWLs, a historic and industrial building that hosts creative events, to launch the new Electric Cinema, which will transform the disused Pasir Panjang Power Station into a screening room for the first time.
This follows the launch of a second space at Riverside Point last year, “Projector X: Riverside” (pictured below). For its Riverside location, the company transformed what was once a Thai nightclub, inviting creatives and artists from Singapore to “create something revitalizing and original on a shoestring budget.” Tan added that the project is one of many ways the company has been able to stay motivated during the pandemic, which has allowed The Projector to maintain its newfound creativity in uncertain times.
Cautious optimism as Singapore reopens
When the government announced that local nightlife and event establishments could resume operations on April 19, Tan described the day as rather frantic. Immediately, the company saw its nightlife partners spinning the wheel, preparing to book dates, before they could even get a sense of what the new regulations would mean for businesses.
According to Tan, despite the new rules, The Projector remains “cautiously optimistic” about reopening, citing finding new workers to work long hours as a particular challenge. However, Tan said the company is looking to gradually scale up its events and is exploring new partnerships to develop new experiences for the projector community. The company also hopes a resurgence in theater rentals will help alleviate its earlier capacity issues, which saw the cinema only able to operate at 50% capacity, before safety distancing measures were lifted. April 26.
The pandemic has hit Singapore’s nightlife and entertainment particularly hard, and The Projector has been no exception. Tan described the last two years as having been a great adventure: “When we were forced to close in 2020, it was devastating for us, as well as for other small independent businesses. Financially, we found ourselves in the barrel of the proverbial gun.
We knew we had to pivot quickly to survive, so we embarked on a massive merchandising campaign, (our) bar Intermission also did food deliveries, and we also developed and launched our own streaming platform, The Projector More, in four months.
Tan says INTERACTIVE-MARKETING that the company had a team execute the build of a technical streaming platform, which it cited as helping to keep the company “nimble,” compared to other big players in the industry. While the ambition wasn’t to take on the streaming giants with an already established platform, the team hoped to keep audiences engaged with The Projector Plus.
While The Projector said it could not disclose the monetary investment behind its Projector Plus platform, the team said it had “definitely covered its costs”. Unlike streaming giants like Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon, with their ongoing offerings, The Projector has opted for a more streamlined approach. In line with the brand’s key strategy, it made more sense for the company to have a “pay as you go” TVOD model, where audiences could enjoy The Projector’s carefully curated content.
She added, “For the subscription model to work, massive volume and scale of content and audience is essential, and achieving this requires substantial resources. Our audience appreciates us for our curation, it’s our strength.
The projector is also the official platform for virtual film festivals, such as the Singapore International Film Festival and the Perspectives Film Festival. This provided the company with an opportunity to use a platform to showcase more niche content – independent films such as honey country and Directly – films that might not make commercial sense in a physical theater, which come with high fixed costs like rent, INTERACTIVE-MARKETING understand.
Additionally, Tan said The Projector “probably launched 20 different initiatives in the past two years.” Activations included virtual quiz nights, virtual chat sessions, and even fun short film contests, which would allow The Projector to continue to have touchpoints with its audience, as an alternative to the all-too-familiar physical experiences.
Focus on the “why”
With the pandemic being too unpredictable for businesses to mitigate, focusing on the brand mission was essential for The Projector, especially with restrictions to navigate. On how The Projector kept its head turned forward, Tan said the team needed to think about “why”.
“For the team and our community, The Projector is not your average cinema, it is a platform to champion alternative and independent cinema, art and culture, a space for inclusion, diversity and of discourse, where you can be yourself. It underlines everything we do.
Given how technology has transformed the marketing, media and business space, one can only wonder how The Projector could tap into these new opportunities, especially with technology being a key space to hold conversations about culture, art, inclusivity and diversity.
When asked what technology initiatives The Projector wants to leverage, Tan says INTERACTIVE-MARKETING that he exploredcrypto, NFT and web3 – amid “the exponentially growing avalanche of information and tumbling ideas”. Despite this, Tan expressed enthusiasm for the new developments, especially the potential for tokenization in empowering communities. She cited Web3 in particular as a means of ownership and empowerment, especially for creatives, through film, art and culture. Tan hopes to leverage these opportunities to explore and potentially redefine “what it means to be part of The Projector,” particularly beyond memberships, given its strong and passionate community.
This resonates strongly with The Projector’s ethos of being “not your average cinema,” but a platform that supports creatives and artists from all walks of life.
This article was written by Gianna Siddiqui.