Orange Wednesdays: What happened to that national treasure?
Promotions and similar campaigns tend to be fleeting things, here one moment, gone the next. Yet, a rare few seem to stick in the public’s collective consciousness. Two good examples for the 30-year-olds out there are the plastic Tazos you could find in packets of Walker’s crisps from 1994 onwards and the bike wheel reflectors that were secreted in boxes of Kellogg’s cornflakes, circa 1989.
Of course, in the digital era, promotions have evolved to become much more eclectic, usually involving a mobile phone or a special code that has to be redeemed. Dedicate websites gather offers and divide them in categories, making it easier for users to find what they need. These selections range from beauty products to supermarket and casino offers.
Orange Wednesdays, a decade-long promotion that allowed customers to get two cinema tickets for the price of one, holds a special place in British hearts, becoming what TimeOut magazine described as a “national treasure“. The demise of this seemingly innocuous offer, back in February 2015, even found its way into newspapers, as cinemagoers lamented the end of inexpensive trips to the cinema.
What happened to it, though? The campaign survived the challenges created by the rebranding of Orange to EE but, by the middle of the last decade, had suddenly found itself surplus to requirements. Inevitably, the telecoms giant provided a meaningless answer in explanation: that customers’ viewing habits had changed, but just how likely is it that Orange Wednesdays had fallen out of fashion?
Sadly, despite the near-legendary status of Orange Wednesdays, EE’s explanation probably wasn’t far from the truth. However, a slump in cinema admissions in 2013 and 2014, likely the impetus for ending the promotion, was very short-lived. Visitor figures have hovered consistently between 150 and 160 million for a very long time, and the numbers for 2019 were actually the highest recorded since 2001.
In summary, the development of online streaming has had little to no effect on the popularity of cinemas in the UK. This probably has something to do with the fact that picture houses are still in a privileged position as far as showing films is concerned, receiving new Star Wars and James Bond movies long before Netflix, Disney+ or Prime Video do. This trait seems to be etched in stone, no doubt to the chagrin of those same media giants.
If the Internet is to be believed, EE wasn’t being entirely upfront about its reasons for canning Orange Wednesdays. There’s a possibility that the long-running promotion had simply run its course, and no cinema wanted to honour a two-for-one deal anymore, meaning that EE had no option but to end it. The costs were likely on the steep side, too, given the notoriously high prices of cinema tickets. One can only speculate as to the scale of bankruptcies that would have been caused by adding popcorn into the mix.
Unfortunately, in hindsight, the future wasn’t bright for Orange Wednesdays – or Orange.
The editorial unit