The year 2020 was disastrous for the cinema industry. Cinemas were closed or operated under a sanitary regime (closed bars, limited number of viewers in cinema halls, mandatory masks during screenings). This resulted in extremely low attendance of only 17 million, compared to over 60 million the year before in Poland. Film distributors were looking for alternative sales opportunities for their films and were forced to postpone their biggest and most important cinema premieres. There were opportunities, but also threats that the new distribution channels, movie premieres on streaming platforms would contribute to the demise of the cinemas as we knew them so far, and some even claimed that this would be the beginning of the end of cinemas which we have known up to now.
An exceptionally cold May with hopes for a better tomorrow.
The government’s decision is that the cinemas will reopen on May 29 this year and it seems very likely that this time almost all cinemas will open for viewers hungry for the thrill of the big screen. They will open with restrictions and all precautions to ensure the comfort and safety of the viewers. The opening of the cinemas promises to be very attractive, and the list of premieres is really impressive. The audience will have a chance to watch Oscar movies, among others. The many films screened on the big screen will include Oscar winner in the best film category – “Nomadland”, and also a candidate for this title – “The Father”. Other attractive titles will also be available. An interesting repertoire is what attracts most people to the cinema. In the year of the pandemic, when restrictions were eased, as it results from the research conducted in March this year for Helios cinemas, 53% of the audience of the Helios cinema network did not go to the cinema and 44% of them did not do it not because of the fear of the virus but because of unattractive film offers. 92% of respondents intend to go to the cinema at least as often as before the pandemic and 38% indicated going to the cinema as the first cultural activity after lifting restrictions.
Opening of cinemas and then what?
In countries in which cinemas and theaters are already opened, opening weekends were record-breaking in terms of attendance and movie income. The blockbuster “Godzilla vs Kong” brought in double surprise profits, providing great prospects for premieres queuing up for mass distribution. Despite the alternative of home cinema and the availability of films on streaming platforms, audiences went to cinemas more willingly than before the pandemic. In Poland, during the loosening of restrictions and the opening of cinemas in February this year, when mostly arthouse cinemas took advantage of the opportunity, attendance was 80-100% and tickets were sold out long before the venues opened. Why do audiences still prefer going to the cinema despite the popularity of streaming platforms and the possibility to see premieres on their own TV screens? The research conducted in March this year for Helios cinemas shows that for the question “what, in your opinion, distinguishes cinema as compared to streaming platforms” as many as 72% respondents said that “cinema gives unique atmosphere unavailable at home” and 70% said that it is “an idea to spend time away from home”. Cinema-goers also appreciate the high quality of picture and sound, as indicated by 61% of them.
Simultaneous premieres the end of traditional cinema?
Last year, the owners of HBO Max announced the availability of premieres of some typically theatrical films on their service. “Godzilla vs. Kong” recently debuted there, and Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” has just joined the offer as well. These films, due to closed theaters, were distributed exclusively through the on-demand content platform. Previously, “Wonder Woman 1984” appeared on the platform. However, it turns out that such a model of distribution of the largest film productions is just an experiment, not the announced future of the film industry and the first step to close theaters. Warner Bros. announces that it will withdraw from the idea already in 2022, which means that the cinemas will come back in their full glory with exclusive movie hits. It is not surprising then that 81% of the Helios cinema goers would definitely choose cinema as a place of the film premiere instead of watching it on their TV screen or tablet.
James Bond the most awaited premiere of 2021?
The latest James Bond movie, “No Time to Die,” as CNN notes, was the first major Hollywood film to be postponed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The release of the film, which will see Daniel Craig reprise his role as Agent 007, was finally pushed back to October 8 of this year. This was the third postponement of the premiere. However, according to the audience of the cinema chain Helios, it is not James Bond who they are waiting for the most after the opening of the cinemas. 38% of the audience can’t wait for the premiere of “Black Widow” and 37% for the latest “Spiderman”, 33% of the audience is waiting for 007.
Poles are yearning to go back to normalcy. Any occasion to leave the house is a good one.
After the announcement of the loosening of restrictions, Poles longing to go out to restaurants, rushed to the phones. In many restaurants, there are no seats left for May 15 and 16. There must be spaces between the tables, so there are fewer seats than usual. This is all to maintain sanitary safety. Will it be the same with the cinemas? Everything indicates that yes. With safety rules and limited attendance, cinemas will fill up with fans of big-screen entertainment. Let’s hope that this difficult period for the cinema industry will end quickly and the situation will allow us to be present in the cinemas also with advertising budgets, because it is very important for this industry.
The government surprised businesses with an acceleration related to the opening of the economy. Movie theaters may open as early as May 21, but most multiplexes will not take advantage of this “opportunity.” Some arthouse cinemas will open earlier.
Source: The “Viewers’ habits, anticipated film hits of 2021” study was conducted between 19 and 22 March 2021 using the CAVI method. The research group consisted of Helios viewers aged 13 – 55+, with a majority of those aged 25 – 44, who visited the Helios chain in Q4 2019. This particular quarter was chosen because of Helios’ highly diverse repertoire and attendance record. 1204 viewers responded to the survey in the indicated time period.