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It was the longest wait for the longest-running James Bond film, but this week, cinemas in the UK finally had the success they needed to persuade the audience to return to locks.

‘It’s a watershed moment. It’s time for us to start doing business again, ”said Tim Richards, CEO of Vue, the third largest operator in the UK in terms of the number of cinemas, of the two hours, 43 minutes long No time to die.

“This is the movie everyone has been waiting for and asking for,” he told the Financial Times.

Cinemas hope Bond will be the catalyst to entice audiences to return to lockouts, despite the record number of consumers subscribing to streaming platforms during the pandemic and movie studios debuting more major releases online.

‘We can not really underestimate [Bond’s] importance, ”says Chris Bates, Commercial Director of Europe at Odeon, the UK’s second largest cinema chain. ‘To have the big blockbuster. . . all generations will come out for this, and we have not yet had it. ”

Between the release of tickets on September 13 and October 1, Odeon sold more than 450,000 tickets for Daniel Craig’s last outing as the British Secret Agent – which sold out the pre-sale of the previous Bond film, Ghost. About half of the tickets go to customers who did not return to the cinemas as they could reopen in England in May, the group said.

Vue said it sold more tickets for No time to die in the first 24 hours that they were on sale than was done in four and a half weeks Ghost. ‘This is what we secretly hoped for, [but] you never plan for it, ”Richards said.

$ M bar graph showing the UK box office for Daniel Craig's previous Bond films

According to the operator, this need indicates how much desire to return to the cinemas, despite months that they streamed home.

But if more consumers turn to on-demand platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, are blockbuster movies the only movies that customers will pull back?

“Current not only increased, but it was also maintained after the constraint,” said Tim Mulligan, research director at MIDiA Research.

The amount of time the British public spent on streaming TV series and films rose 9.8 percent between September 2020 and June 2021, three months after the first easing of restrictions in England, MIDiA figures show.

Mulligan argued that No time to die is an acid test for cinemas to prove themselves after the disruption of Covid. ‘What is the value proposition for a consumer who prefers to pay three times a monthly subscription [for a cinema ticket] where they can not control what the environment is and they have to leave their home for it? That is the question. ”

Cinema owners say nothing can repeat the experience of a movie with a live audience, and they still invested in seats and better sound and screen technology, but it was a brutal 18 months.

Cineworld, the largest cinema operator in the UK, was close to bankruptcy before succeeding in more than $ 750 million emergency financing in November, while Odeon’s US parent company AMC now repelled collapsed after raising $ 917 million in debt and equity in January.

The British box office at the weekend remains under comparable periods before the pandemic

Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UK Cinema Association, said the recovery was ‘steady’ but that there were ‘highs and lows’.

The Marvel Movie Black widow according to BFI’s box office figures so far this year the best film to date in the UK, with a turnover of £ 6.8 million on its first weekend. This compares with £ 14.1 million raised by Spider-Man: far from home, the most recent Marvel movie before the pandemic.

Cinema managers point out Black widow was released on Disney’s subscription service the same day it appeared in theaters.

Yet the road to recovery seems uncertain.

Great movies Top Gun: Maverick and Mission Impossible 7 was delayed again, until 2022, and the exclusive period that cinemas have to show films before general release is cut in most cases from 90 days to about 45.

Customers also have higher standards than pre-Covid, warns Jed Harmsen, vice president of film and content solutions at Dolby Laboratories.

“We think people are going to come back, but if they do, the expectation is that they want the best and that it will be different from what they saw in the house.”

Operators say strong ticket sales for ‘No Time to Die’ show how much demand there is to return to cinemas, despite months of streaming films at home © Charlie Bibby / FT

Cinema operators noted that while audiences were even lower this summer than 2019, returning customers paid for more expensive tickets for ‘premium’ shows with good seating, high-quality sound and vision or better food.

But Harmsen said a desire for more immersive, digitally enhanced experiences does not necessarily mean that action-packed blockbusters take precedence over more art house movies.

Even silent films can have “a complete immersive soundscape,” he said.

Clapp said that a ‘big talk from the pandemic’ is actually how we design a more diverse range of films for audiences’, as film worlds have returned faster in markets such as Germany and Poland with strong local film yields and less reliance on Hollywood -expenses.

But, he added, so-called tent pole movies-produced with the big screen in mind-remain crucial to the survival of cinemas: “The reason they are called tent poles is because they keep the structure up.”

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