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Move over sofa, I am going to the Cinema


By Clotilde Gros

I cannot remember the last time I went to a cinema, but I do miss it. For many people, the need to go to the cinema is directly associated with the need to escape, and escapism is what we all need right now – hitting the pause button, phones off, feeling completely immersed in this new world.

The pandemic has hit cinema groups and independent operators over the last 12 months as they have had to temporarily shut their doors to the public as a result of restrictions introduced in the country to combat the spread of Covid-19. It is estimated that cash taken at box offices fell by £1billion last year as a result of the Covid pandemic, a drop in over 80% of admissions revenue. This week, various cinema groups such as Odeon, Vue or Cineworld have unveiled plans to safely reopen for customers from mid-May with a raft of exciting movies which we have all been waiting for. Odeon has confirmed it will reopen the vast majority of its screens in the UK on May 17 with Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway. This will be followed by numerous other blockbusters including Black Widow, Cruella, Fast & Furious 9 and of course the much anticipated release of the new James Bond in September. Cinema groups are upbeat too, they believe they can recoup the vast majority of the lost revenue by the end of the 2021.

But the pandemic has changed everything, from consumer behaviour to the breakdown of the traditional business model that has made cinemas success over the years. Just like retailers have had to readapt to online shopping, movies for home viewing are now THE thing.

According to recent data, the public spent 40% of waking hours watching TV during the first lockdown alone, bingeing on box sets and movies on the small screen. Hollywood studios have seized on cinema closures to experiment with digital releases such as Wonder Women or Justice League on apps such as Rakuten TV or Amazon.

To add to the pain, the likes of Netflix, Disney+ or other steaming providers are spending big to increase subscriber numbers and continue to improve profits margins. The one thing that plays to the advantage of cinemas right now is that lot of the projects the streaming providers had hoped to come out earlier did get pushed because of the production delays linked to Covid. That and the fact that Hollywood will, no doubt, return to releasing big blockbusters on the big screen, with (perhaps) shorter exclusivity period for cinemas to show releases known as the “theatrical window”. Actors at the Oscars just last week have all spoken as one voice to urge consumers back to the big screen.

Cinema are betting strong slate of upcoming releases such as the new James Bond: No Time to Die to lure back consumers. Competition amongst Cinema operators is tough and key investments will need to be made across the estate to improve sites and viewing experience. The entire sector is having to completely rethink its business model and implement lessons learnt from the pandemic. The next six months will be crucial for operators and if they still want to be relevant, the need to communicate these changes will be extremely important: investments, innovation, viewing experience and community should all be recurring themes that would resonate well with consumers.

For right now though, I love watching movies at home, but I love going to the cinema more. The big screen has my vote. I don’t know about you, but I will be watching the new Bond at my local cinema as soon as it is released. All I will need is to find a good babysitter.