Five minutes with Philip Mordecai
Lights, camera, Curzon. Philip Mordecai is on a mission to make Curzon the go-to cinema business for film lovers in the UK and around the world. Having recently launched a new video on demand service, Curzon’s Director says organisations must embrace new technology to stay relevant, warns that stale businesses will fail fast and explains why he’s bullish about Brexit.
- Describe your organisation’s purpose
To provide inspiring high quality cinema and cultural entertainment to audiences however and wherever they choose to enjoy it. It can be said that we are a 21st century business that provides unforgettable films in quality surroundings via Curzon branded cinemas and digital channels.
- How would you describe the culture at your organisation?
We’re all about film. As a legacy cinema business founded in the 1930s that competes against multinationals, we tend to attract like-minded people. Our staff are passionate and loyal – and I think that comes through in the customer and members experiences.
- How does your organisation prepare for the future world of work?
We are not a typical cinema company. In fact we are an integrated independent film company that operates across production, distribution and exhibition. To ensure our future we have placed technology firmly at the future of our business and while we work hard to deliver a premium bricks and mortar business, we’ve recently invested heavily in a video on demand service that delivers a quality film experience at home. We’re now looking to replicate the premium virtual cinema venue service in overseas markets.
- Does your organisation do any work in your local community?
Absolutely, we see each of the Curzon branches as an active player in their local communities. At our Canterbury cinema, we work closely with the university to provide access to our company and film expertise. In many of our regional venues we partner with many local community groups via screenings and workshops. Across the country, we work with film clubs that bring people together and allow them to share their passion. We are also the only cinema chain to pay both London and National Living Wage.
- In what ways does your organisation collaborate with others and why?
We are incredibly proud of our work with film makers and people trying to start their careers and have premiered many emerging female and male talents over the years. We have a great relationship with the National Film and Television School and the Bertha Foundation, and we offer student memberships to make sure the next generation has access to quality film content that can otherwise be difficult to access.
We also provide a platform for filmmakers to showcase their content. For example we work with Sheffield Doc/Fest and BAFTA Shorts. We recently sponsored the audience award in Sheffield, and the winning entry is now set for cinema release. “It’s a great feeling when you help emerging artists take their first steps to critical and commercial success.”
- What is the main thing that attracts talent and retains talent in your organisation?
The brand, constant innovation and our achievements attract people. In the last 10 years, we’ve shown time and again that we are a progressive company. That kind of track record always attracts great people.
In terms of retaining talent, we’ve found it’s about giving people exposure and experience. We’re a flat organisation so our people get to interact, question and learn from senior management. Every time we open a new cinema, it’s all hands on deck: everyone is there for the launch in some way or another. Teamwork is at the heart of everything we do.
- In your experience, what is the best way to build diverse teams?
Don’t put too much weight on academic results. Look for the doers and those who can inspire instead. MBAs can drain your resources while someone without so-called academic excellence can deliver much more value to the organisation.
- What has been the biggest challenge to your growth and how have you tackled it?
We’re competing against major household names so we have to be smart in everything we do. We’re currently focusing on data analysis, machine learning and taken the time to scout the absolute best locations for our future cinemas. We’re always looking to evolve, stay nimble and have a clear USP.
- What has been the best decision your organisation has ever made?
To modernise the brand and make it more accessible. We were previously viewed as a luxury cinema chain only available in London and we’ve worked hard to expand our footprint, build new technologies and broaden our appeal.
- What would you say represents the biggest opportunity for your organisation in the next five years?
International expansion. “I’m bullish about Brexit because I’m confident that the brand will thrive in new markets. People always turn out for quality experiences.” On the other hand, if Brexit has an adverse effect on the UK economy, we have a vibrant at-home cinema service where people can enjoy entertainment from the sofa.
- What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
When I worked in Luxembourg, someone once told me you have to inspire and provide opportunities for employees to “run”. I didn’t understand what they meant at the time, but now I get it: some people will run into a wall, pick themselves up, dust off and keep running. They are the people that will feel empowered and then help the business thrive.
- What other organisations do you admire the most and why?
I like how Amazon retains a startup mentality despite growing into a huge multi-billion dollar organisation. They’ve also engaged the film industry in a way that others in similar positions have not. There is also lots to learn from businesses like Sky and BP. You might not like everything they’re doing but to transform from a satellite company into a media giant in just a few years is an impressive feat. “I admire organisations that understand they can’t just be ‘one track’. Stale businesses fail fast and die; evolving businesses can adapt the natural market conditions and learn and last.”
- What does a Vibrant Economy mean to you?
For me, it’s the feel good factor and confidence. When we focus on the positives of what UK plc can do, life is not that bad. It’s time to stop focusing on the negative: that’s what a Vibrant Economy means to me.