The Big Screen in the Big Rig: A Movie Theater on Wheels Helps Redefine Movie Marketing

on December 07, 2015

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By Daniel Loria

The spread of the multiplex concept in Mexico revolutionized the exhibition business in one of Latin America's most important markets. Perhaps most notably, it tied the industry's growth to the development of shopping centers around middle-class cities-riding a wave of consumer spending in the wake of the recovery from a debilitating financial crisis. While large circuits like Cinépolis, Cinemex, and Cinemark all focused on expanding their reach in the country throughout the late '90s and early aughts, the team at Cinetransformer saw a different approach to capitalizing on Mexico's underscreened communities.  

While mobile cinemas aren't new in the exhibition industry, Cinetransformer was born out of a commitment to provide the closest possible alternative to a movie theater. Rather than simply fitting a big screen inside a trailer, Cinetransformer carefully conceived their experience to have the feel of a movie theater that happens to be mobile, incorporating traditional moviegoing elements like a lobby area and concessions stand. "We took the cinema experience directly to these rural communities with all the comfort of a luxury cinema," explains Cinetransformer chief operating officer and founding partner, Raul Fernandez. Today, patrons can count on some of their amenities, like stadium seating and 3D and 4D screenings. According to Fernandez, a pair of Cinetransformer staff members can set up the space and be ready for exhibition within an hour.  

Cinetransformer currently operates a fleet of 26 mobile cinemas worldwide, with at least two maintained in the U.S. at any given time. They've outfitted their vehicles with top-of-the-line equipment, including Barco projectors; RealD 3D; screens from providers like Harkness, Stewart, and Northview; seating from Mexico-based Mobiliario Seating; JBL speakers and QSC amplifiers; and 4D integration through Media Mation and ButtKicker.   While the company cut its teeth on rural Latin American filmgoers with no easy access to cinemas, it has since grown to serve a variety of different sectors that benefit from the quality of its presentation. The standard cinema configuration of a Cinetransformer has 91 seats, while 4D and showroom configurations (for interactive presentations) can seat up to 45. A host of top brands have counted on Cinetransformer for major product releases, as have companies that screen educational content for employees. Film festivals, attracted to the ease of adding screens within a single location, have also shown interest in the company.  

Cinetransformer has also grained traction from television networks and film studios looking to offer engaging and immersive marketing opportunities to audiences nationwide. What better than a mobile cinema to reach audiences? Earlier this year, Warner Bros. enlisted Cinetransformer to provide filmgoers a taste of San Andreas in the buildup to the film's release. Star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was so impressed with Cinetransformer's presentation that he took to Twitter and Instagram to tell his millions of followers about the marketing campaign. An effects-driven film like San Andreas, which can drum up additional interest through 3D and immersive seating screenings, can benefit greatly from having viewers get a taste of its immersive experience-a marketing angle that trailers alone aren't able to fully exploit. Cinetransformer promoted San Andreas across its fleet, giving the film an international experiential marketing tour across North and South America and Europe. The movie went on to gross $150 million domestically and $470 million worldwide.  

"Cinetransformer provides a unique mobile experiential marketing solution that allows the studios to take their films directly to the people by creating cross-country movie preview tours," explains Michael Pine, VP of business development. "Studios have capitalized on experiential marketing with Cinetransformer while combining traditional social media marketing."  

As the film industry continues to focus on overseas markets, Cinetransformer is prepared to follow suit. European vehicle regulations require modifications to Cinetransformer's patented system, a minor hurdle that the company has already addressed. Expansion in Asia continues to be on their agenda, and the company has expressed interest in exploring bourgeoning markets in the Middle East and Africa. As long as there's a road and an audience, Cinetransformer is ready to help drive audiences back to the cinema.  

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