The Death of Cinema?
Mr. Thurlbourn explores some of rising tide of problems that face the 'silver screen'.
The title of my article might seem over-the-top. 'Death' is a harsh word when applied to any aspect of life. However, there are real fears that the cinema that came to define the twentieth century could, at the very least, be on the decline, because of a rising tide of issues that it is currently seeking to address.
As a cinema, making profit has been under strain for some time. Sales of food: the wonderful deep troughs of pick-n-mix, mountains of crispy popcorn, and later, nachos, have long propped up cinema profits. Hence, why the food is pretty expensive. However, there are more recent issues which are threatening to undermine the cinema system.
Streaming services galore!
Gone are the days where we had access to one streaming service, Netflix. Many households now double-up with Amazon Prime, or with Disney+, or the new Paramount streaming service. Other households have multiple subscription services and are awash with new TV content 24-7. The upshot is that we might be less inclined to visit the cinema if we have access to such good content and can enjoy it from the comfort of our homes. The convenience of being able to stream films or TV content on portable devices such as a phone, allows audiences to dispense with the traditional family-around-the-TV model, and though it might be deemed anti-social, be able to stream content wherever, and whenever they want. The physical act of going out on a dark wintry night to visit the cinema could potentially be an effort too far...
The Covid-19 Pandemic
Lockdowns didn't exactly help cinemas - small independents or chains! Here in
the UK, cinemas closed their doors and didn't know when they would feasibly open again. This led to huge gains in the streaming industry, and Netflix profits, as an example, soared. It was reported by the BBC that Netflix got '16 million new sign-ups thanks to lockdown'. As a reaction to this, film companies decided to embrace the future, and allow audiences to stream content immediately, bypassing the traditional initial cinema run. An example of this was Disney's Mulan. The high price point helped film studios recoup lost money, but in the longer term, have they only encouraged film-goers to stay at home rather than visit the cinema now they have opened their doors once more?
Cinemas have evolved in the last few years. Rather than the as-many-bums-on-seats-model, chains such as VUE offer a more luxurious experience. In Cambridge, at the Grafton Centre, you are able to buy a premium experience, with fully reclining leather seats. There are therefore less seats per screen, but the higher price tickets possibly make up for the fewer seats that they can sell for a given screening.
However, on the three occasions I have visited the cinema in the past month (granted, for the earliest showings on a Saturday or Sunday morning), there have barely been any other occupied seats. It still remains a a great experience with surround sound and a massive screen. I still enjoy going - but are others?
Death? Decline? Or is something new around the corner to further rejuvenate the whole cinema experience?