Why a Screening Room Is a Must-Have Meeting Space
Screening rooms at hotels and independent event venues can be used for everything from film festivals and smaller movie premieres to presentations and social events.
When designing meeting space, one school of thought is to create flexible areas like ballrooms and breakout rooms that adapt for any number of events. Other venues, from hotels to independent event venues, are adding a very specific type of space for meetings: a screening room. And it turns out that screening rooms are anything but a niche meeting space. They offer versatility, with planners using them for events such as film festivals and smaller movie premieres to presentations, sports broadcasts, or social events.
“Today’s meetings focus on visuals, live media, and films,” says Camilla Andersson, director of strategic relationships for Neuehouse, a co-working space for the creative industry with locations in New York and California. “Communicating to a broader audience is key, whether you show video clips, connect to other members of your team, show presentations, or support your keynote and guest speakers.” Both the Manhattan and Hollywood Neuehouse locations are equipped with screening rooms that seat 60 and 100 guests, respectively.
While video content is an overarching industry trend, the motivations for including a dedicated screening room can vary greatly from market to market. In Los Angeles, for example, such rooms appeal to a film-industry-heavy clientele. The hotel AKA Beverly Hills makes its private, 20-seat cinema space available to guests free of charge, a key draw for a property where the length of stay typically ranges from two weeks to two months. “[Guests] appreciate having access to opportunities that allow them to enjoy a three-dimensional experience while in residence,” says Elana Friedman, vice president of global marketing for AKA.
As part of a massive redevelopment effort, B Resort & Spa in Orlando debuted a 12-seat screening room in June 2014. The larger project also included converting existing common spaces into a yoga room, an arts-and-crafts room, and a library, fitting the property’s focus on offering guests a well-rounded stay. “B Resort is a lifestyle resort, so we try to provide traditional meeting rooms as well as spaces that are more out of the box,” says Mary Hutchcraft, the property’s director of sales and marketing.
At Casa Loma, a tourist attraction and event space in Toronto, the business rationale for adding a theater was different still. “For us, it’s always been about augmenting the tourist experience incrementally by bringing added value wherever we can,” says Nick Di Donato, president and C.E.O. of Liberty Entertainment Group, which operates the venue.
Casa Loma added a theater in November in a cavernous area that was originally intended to be an indoor swimming pool but sat empty for several years. Management considered alternatives like a lounge or a nightclub before opting to create a theater. The reason for the choice was simple: versatility. When it’s not booked for events, the space stays in use. A tourist attraction by day, Casa Loma begins every group tour in the theater, where a 20-minute video presentation introduces visitors to the history of the property. At other times it’s used for an interactive game.
B Resort & Spa also gets multiple uses from the screening room, using it for family-friendly movie nights, viewing parties, sports broadcasts, and other social occasions for guests. Decor, including oversize chairs and movie posters, creates a cozy atmosphere. “Every client that we take on a site visit wants to find a use for the screening room,” Hutchcraft says.
Thoughtful design to the space can increase its value to event planners. Neuehouse’s new Hollywood screening room includes an adjacent greenroom that has access to what’s going on in the screening groom via monitors and audio feeds.
“The screening room is our most-used meeting room,” Andersson says.
While adding a state-of-the-art screening room can result in high out-of-pocket costs for venues, it is often the easiest and cheapest alternative for planners. “The cost and time to bring in screens and equipment on a one-off basis can be prohibitive,” Di Donato says. If a client wanted to bring in a screen of comparable quality for a one-time event at Casa Loma, for instance, costs could run upwards of $30,000. Thus, screening rooms can be the deciding factor between a venue landing a booking or not.
“The space is so versatile and our guests love it so much,” Hutchcraft says. “I honestly don’t know what we ever did without it.”
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