THE FUTURE OF CI NEMA | EXTENDED CUT
Does the type of content on offer add to a cinema’s ‘uniqueness’? Is there room for more homegrown films in UK cinemas? LIEVENS: Absolutely. British film is important – and we need to focus on it more. If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that you can’t rely on word of mouth for a steady output of content. China, for example, has a strong tradition of local content. That has helped their box office recover from the Covid-19 pandemic – they’re not reliant on international studios for content to show. Cinemas in the UK need to be a bit more risk-taking with their programming. A lot of the big circuits shy away from screening independent films because of the theatrical window, but now that it’s falling apart, there is no excuse to ignore that stuff. They also have a lot of screens. It actually makes more sense for an Odeon or Vue to play independent films, or other alternative content, such as live-broadcast theatre or concerts – particularly because cinemas will reopen before these can be seen in person. So, what’s it going to take for cinemas to make these changes? LIEVENS: It will definitely be gradual. The big circuit cinemas operate in such a traditional business model, but we’re already starting to see small changes. Cineworld, for example, just announced an agreement with Warner Brothers and HBO Max that will change the traditional 16-week theatrical window to just one month. Initially, Cineworld protested changes to the theatrical window – especially when Odeon made a similar agreement with Universal some months ago. They’ve acknowledged that the theatrical window is dying, and I’m sure it won’t be too long before Vue follows suit. But, in terms of shoShouwcasing diverse programming, we’ll have to see. There’s not going to be a full calendar of content when cinemas reopen again. They’re going to have to get creative. When cinemas reopened last year, there were screenings of old movies, but also Tenet , which was criticised hugely. What are your thoughts on this? LIEVENS: Tenet was an interesting case. There was a lot of attention and pressure on it – because that’s all that was there. And, ultimately, it was the only film on offer because Christopher Nolan didn’t want it to be released on HBO Max.
But it didn’t do too badly in the UK, especially considering the fact that we had social distancing measures in place. It got a respectable box office result – one that wasn’t far off films like Inception and Interstellar . It didn’t do as well in the US, but that’s the result of a very patchwork release there – cinemas just weren’t open in all states. In terms of quality, it’s still an original concept. Typically, those director-led, original concept films are a good thing for us to have – they do well, due to the artistry behind them. It’s certainly not the death of cinema, as some critics suggest! Finally, there were concerns about cinemas being threatened by streaming even before the pandemic. But can they now work together in harmony? LIEVENS: I’m quite relaxed about streaming. There’s a whole range of views across the industry, and some people aren’t so relaxed. However, there are currently no noticeable effects on the box office pre-pandemic. Consumers want options nowadays, so it makes sense for studios to release their content in a number of different places. People will always go to the cinema, but they may choose to watch new releases from home, too. The likelihood is, a user may choose to stream something at home that they wouldn’t have paid to watch in the cinema. That means the studio potentially increases their revenue. We’re also in an economic recession. Historically, cinemas have always done quite well during those periods, providing cheap nights out. People might not be able to afford to go to the theatre, or to
a concert – these will also experience a slower return, because they require a larger audience size – so the cinema is a great alternative for them. It’s also important to remember that cinema occupancy, before all of this, was only 13% – and it’s been like that for the past ten years. On average, people visit the cinema three times a year, and I can’t see streaming reducing that figure. People will just watch more content from their homes, on top of their three cinema visits per year.
DELPHINE LIEVENS SENIOR BOX OFFICE ANALYST As senior box office analyst at Gower Street, Delphine Lievens forecasts box office results in different territories, enabling film distributors and studios to maximise their revenue through competition analysis and clever release date choices.
MAY 2021 | DEF I N I T ION 29
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