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With 30 years of cinema design experience, the new concept by OMA Cinema pre-dates the pandemic pressures on cinema and is perfectly placed to give the industry a socially-distanced rethink.

The first Oma Cinema is already under construction in Paris – a market with demanding and discerning cinema audiences in its own right. In exploring options which move away from the ‘standard’ for cinema seating layouts, other regions could create a completely new approach to the cinema experience.

The inspiration driving the idea came from a few different sources. Firstly, cinemas themselves. When people go to the cinema, they usually choose the movie first and go to the nearest location because they think that their experience will be more or less the same regardless of the venue. Indeed, the architecture of movie theaters hasn’t seen real innovation since the development of stadium seating and wall-to-wall screens, and that was back in the 1970’s.

Most cinema auditoria built in the last 50 years look alike, reproducing the same seating arrangements for the spectators. The second observation and inspiration for design concerns recent developments and changes in the way people watch films. Numbers of young people who go to the cinema keep declining in so-called mature markets (United Kingdom, United States, France, etc.) despite initiatives such as monthly subscriptions which make prices more attractive. Older spectators are now making up for this loss. How can we attract younger audiences back into the cinema space?

The answer is to change the experience they receive, and the space itself is an integral part of that.

Rather than seating the audience in banked rows, cinemagoers are instead seated on separate, innately social-distanced balconies, which can be tailored to cinema exhibitors’ needs and differentiated between ‘pods’. One balcony can feature VIP style luxury armchairs while the next is tailored for family seating, and the next to a more standard three-row design. This modular design allows cinemas to make the most of available space while also offering different groups of customers different experiences at the same time and in the same room. This innovative balcony design provides each ‘pod’ with an unparalleled and unrestricted view of the film, and it utilises the full height of the screen to be able to seat the audience much closer to the action.

The Ōma Cinema has recently proven a global hit with press and across social media with its innovative approach to cinema layout. Plans for development in the UK are underway.