Cinemas have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside other sectors, a cinemas business is getting as many people as possible into their screens.
This hurt was compounded by the fact that streaming services like Disney Plus had built up a significant audience, 2 and have been changing release schedules to favour their own distributing platforms. However, now that cinemas are able to reopen (albeit with smaller capacity), audiences will likely return in strong enough numbers in order to make it a success.
This success will be because people want to go out again. Everyone is tired of being trapped in their homes, unable to do anything else but click the next episode button on Netflix. April 12 was packed with people who were dying to return to the pub, and this is likely to be replicated in the cinemas. People will be looking forward to getting the in-person experience again. While streaming does provide the comforts of home, there is nothing like going to a cinema, especially after a prolonged period of home comforts.
Despite the meteoric rise of streaming services like Amazon Prime, Netflix, and newer ones such as Disney+, these services simply don’t provide the experience of a cinema. There is no buying cinema snacks, and people’s TV screens simply don’t provide the same visual or sound quality a cinema screen can give. Cinemas are a communal experience as well, the collective laughs and cries, surprises and so much more films can offer when a whole audience sees it. This can elevate the experience of a film and give a better memory of it.
This is especially the case with big blockbuster films. While some films Black Widow, Jungle Cruise and Cruella are premiering on Disney+ and other streaming services on the same day as their cinema release, these films are meant to be seen on a big screen and with friends. Black Widow will be a film that people will prefer to be seen in cinemas, as you have to pay a rental fee per account to watch the film at home. Extra costs like this will only serve as an incentive for people to go out to the cinema again, as that is an extortionate price unless it is possible to split the cost amongst a group of friends. However this model means people are now paying to stay at home, which in the post pandemic period doesn’t make much sense.
Another reason to be optimistic despite streaming services is because the US cinemas have had a strong comeback. Godzilla versus Kong had a stellar opening take of £23.14 million, which almost doubled Wonder Woman 1984’s takes of £12 million in December. Mortal Kombat took a similar opening of £16.4 million dollars. This is hugely important, as both films also debuted on the HBO Max streaming service at the same time proving that audiences have an appetite to get out to the cinema. No doubt the cinemas in the UK will find similar bounce.
Finally, there is a packed release schedule over the next few months. This will keep audiences coming back to the cinema, and away from streaming services. There are films coming out that are initially exclusive to the theatres such as Fast 9 and A Quiet Place Part Two. Even films that are releasing on streaming service on the same day like Black Widow and The Suicide Squad should enjoy a strong UK release, as the streaming services are not a popular as they are in the US or are not available. Later on in the year other blockbuster releases such as Shang Chi and Venom: Let there be Carnage will only be theatrical releases, meaning audiences will have no choice but to go to the cinema to see the latest releases.
Whilst the appeal of streaming has grown during the age of the pandemic, now that the restrictions it has brought are ending, cinema has a strong chance to return to the preferred method of viewing for general audiences. The in-person experience of going to a cinema cannot be replicated by streaming services, as previously mentioned cinema is often a collective experience. The prolonged confinement to our homes mean that people will be excited to see the latest release, comforted in the knowledge that COVID-19 precautions are being taken to keep them safe.
By Kieran Burt
Feature image: Tim Ellis