Amber Wouters as Severine Smetz
Whoever thinks of Kinepolis, thinks first and foremost of film. But cinema complexes are also popular venues for corporate events. For example, the Kinepolis branch in Antwerp is home to three of the largest tech events in our country: Devoxx, Techorama and BC TechDays. “A cinema complex has a special vibe,” say Séverine Smetz (National B2B Sales Manager) and Amber Wouters (B2B Account Manager Kinepolis Antwerp). “We know how to convince our visitors by letting them experience film. We also extend that wow feeling to our B2B events.”
At Kinepolis Business, they have also noticed the booming urge after corona, says Séverine Smetz. “2022 was a great year. In 9 months time we managed to achieve the turnover of what we achieved pre-covid in a year. Before the summer it was a madhouse and the train continued to rumble during the last four months of the year. Everyone thought hybrid events were the future. Me, too. I am still convinced of that, but we have noticed that physical events weigh much more heavily in that hybrid mix than we all thought during the corona crisis.”
“Since the day physical events were allowed to resume, we have noticed how important it is in the business world to interact, connect and network live with a snack and a drink. There was a need to get new ideas and to be inspired.”
Devoxx, the largest developers fair, was completely sold out in 5 minutes
That rush was also there for the major tech fairs, adds Amber Wouters. “Devoxx, the largest developers fair, was completely sold out in 5 minutes. Devoxx Belgium welcomes no less than 3200 visitors from 40 different countries. Other tech events also immediately attracted a lot of people after a break or after online editions during the corona years.”
“Networking is important, digitally that is completely different, but the experience also plays a role. An event such as Techorama is strongly committed to an unforgettable visitor experience. At the last edition, Kinepolis was completely transformed into Las Vegas. It is impossible to bring that experience to the living room or home office of the people from the tech community.”
Giant screens and surround sound
The Antwerp branch of Kinepolis (the main business theater of Kinepolis Belgium) is home to hundreds of B2B events every year, explains Smetz. “This ranges from companies that rent one room to organize a film screening for customers to multi-day trade fairs or conferences.”
“We have a Business Center with a separate entrance that can be rented entirely by companies. We like to think along with our customers if they are considering a complete take-over of the complex, then we look at the possibilities after internal consultation. Not unimportant, we have 2,500 parking spaces that we make available, which is not self-evident in Antwerp.”
“Many event locations, especially for large events, are bare rooms that you still have to decorate yourself from A to Z. That takes a lot of time and, above all, a lot of budget. In our filming locations you can be sure that the image quality and the audio quality are of the highest level. You have a huge screen and surround sound coming from all sides and angles.”
“Our rooms are specially built to fully immerse visitors in a visual and auditory experience with a strong price-quality ratio which they cannot find anywhere else. This is especially important for tech events. An event from Kinepolis Antwerp (or our other locations) can even be streamed very cheaply to all Kinepolis locations in the Benelux.”
“Oh yes, don’t forget the comfortable seats. (laughs) Especially at multi-day events, you would rather have such a soft, spacious seat than a hard, cramped seat. That is a comment that we often find in our Customer Satisfaction Index that we send to our customers after each event. With this grateful input we can continue to improve.”
Devoxx, the annual high mass for developers, descends on Kinepolis for the twentieth time. BC TechDays is celebrating its tenth anniversary there and Techorama has been a regular at the Antwerp cinema complex since 2017. “We are very proud of these long-term collaborations,” says Wouters.
“We have built a reputation in the tech world. It is one community of people who visit each other’s congresses and conferences. Word of mouth is still the most effective marketing. The fact that we handled the cancellation conditions in our contracts flexibly during the corona crisis has strengthened the relationship of trust with our loyal B2B customers.”
Word of mouth is still the most effective marketing
“We want to be more than a location that you rent. Anyone who has ever organized an event knows that a problem pops up somewhere along the way. We adopt a flexible attitude and think creatively about solutions. A speaker or a session that suddenly attracts a lot more people than expected? Then we see if we can move to a larger room at the last minute. A presentation that changes at the very last minute? Then our technical people take a look at how they can quickly add a video or an animation.”
“We brainstorm together with the customer to find the most optimal interpretation; the reception, filling in the reception with our caterers, the ideal room set-up with or without extra audiovisual support, to the installation of extra animation during the event. A conference like Techorama is a good example of this.”
“A cinema complex has a special vibe for many people,” Smetz notes every day. “You can stream countless movies and series from the comfort of your home on Netflix, Streamz, Disney plus and co. Yet people continue to flock to the cinema for the wow feeling. It is our core business to create unique experiences. We also extend this to our B2B events.”
Bringing ideas to life
At Kinepolis, they see an important future for physical events, Smetz emphasises. “Whether they stand alone or are part of a hybrid formula does not really matter, but those physical fairs, congresses, conferences, … will never disappear. Visitors to such an event are looking for inspiration and ideas. This can also be done digitally, but it is only by interacting with other visitors that such an idea comes to life and becomes a real concept.”
Visitors to a physical event are looking for inspiration and ideas. This can also be done digitally, but it is only by interacting with other visitors that such an idea comes to life
“It may sound a bit paradoxical, but social media plays an important role in the success of those events. We want to share photos and videos, we want to show our network that we are ‘there’. For example, every year we organize the Gondola Day, the event of the year for everyone active in retail and FMCG, in our theater in Brussels South (Kinepolis Braine). It attracts speakers and guests from many different countries and markets. All those worlds together in one place, no streaming can compete with that.”
More info about the tech events
Devoxx: This five-day conference brings together the developer community to discover the latest technological developments. Topics covered include cloud technology, big data, cybersecurity, AI and robotics. In 2023, Devoxx Belgium celebrates its 20th anniversary. In Kinepolis, just like the previous 19 editions.
More info here: devoxx.be
Techorama: This two-day conference is all about technology and welcomed almost 2,000 visitors last time. Since 2017, this fair has been held in Kinepolis Antwerp, where it occupies half of the cinema complex. What makes this fair so unique is that it revolves around one central theme each year. Robots, space and Viva Las Vegas have already been reviewed. In 2023, Kinepolis will be transformed into a jungle.
More info here: techorama.be
BC TechDays: This two-day tech fair brings together users and developers who work with Microsoft Dynamics. In 2022, the fair celebrated its tenth anniversary. She attracted more than 1300 participants from 35 different countries to Antwerp.
More info here: bctechdays.com