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A cinema at the record store? Now thats entertainment.

A cinema at the record store? Now thats entertainment

What does a high-street music retailer do when consumers switch from buying CDs in record stores to purchasing downloads of their favourite tunes over the internet? The obvious answer is to diversify - and fast.

HMV was a little off the pace three years ago, when falling sales of recorded content - from music to film to games - forced it to issue a profit warning. But, In Volume 32, Issue 45 of Marketing Week, Fernandez reports that the company has since made up for lost time by reinventing itself as a multi-channel entertainment specialist.

Under the marketing banner "Get Closer", the company now seeks to help customers to gain access to a broad range of entertainment at their convenience - though gaming websites, music streaming, ticketing and live-entertainment venues. And in perhaps one of the most imaginative moves in its 90-year history, the company has joined forces with Curzon to launch a 263-seat, three-screen cinema above the HMV store in the London suburb of Wimbledon.

The cinema - accessible through the store during the day and with its own dedicated entrance outside normal shopping hours - hosts Curzon's selection of films, plus live opera and music events.

Fernandez highlights the potential benefits for both companies. HMV is able to do more cross-marketing to promote DVD or game releases. Curzon, meanwhile, can match older films with HMV in-store promotions and can broadcast live entertainment on the silver screen.

Curzon believes that the partnership will enable it to "experiment with mainstream movies as well as art-house and independent films based on the high street for the first time". An article in Volume 393, Issue 8659 of The Economist suggests that the experiment may be successful.

Films, music and the written word are today available through a wider range of channels than ever. Despite this increase in choice, blockbusters are achieving more market share than previously - and niche products such as art-house and independent films are also proving more popular.

The Economist claims that blockbuster films and best-selling novels may grow not just more quickly than products that are merely very popular, but also in a different way. The book gets read, or the film gets seen, not merely by avid readers or frequent cinema-goers, but also by millions of occasional consumers. In this way, says The Economist, the hit is "carried along by a wave of ill-informed goodwill".

Niche products, meanwhile, are doing well precisely because the wider range of channels makes them more readily - and in some cases more cheaply - available.

It is the material that people used to watch or listen to largely because there was little else on that is increasingly being ignored. The television broadcast by the big commercial networks is losing market share largely because of this classic squeeze, as people gravitate to cable networks and, to a lesser extent, online video. Middle-market newspapers are also feeling the pinch.

In the new world of entertainment, media companies need to aim either for the blockbuster, or for the niche market. That means there will still be room for books of Greek poetry in translation alongside the taut political thriller. But the Morecambe and Wise Show? That's another story.