Cinemas in Trouble – The Future of the Industry at Large

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The 25th James Bond film, No Time to Die has been delayed yet again to April 2021. A similar fate has been met by other films like The Batman and Dune. The effects felt by these delays has been almost immediate – Cineworld, the world’s second-largest cinema chain, has closed, affecting around 45,000 jobs around the world. But what other effects might these delays have on the film studios and cinemas?

Key to the future of studios and cinemas is their rocky relationship. Perhaps indicative of this is Disney’s treatment of cinemas in 2017. Generally film distributors take somewhere between 25% to 60% of ticket sales, but for showing Star Wars: The Last Jedi Disney demanded at most 70%. If they could show the film for 4 weeks on their largest screen it would be graciously reduced to 65%. This is all indicative of Disney’s power over cinemas, particularly as most cinemas agreed to these particularly stringent terms. Furthermore, most film studios amid the Covid-19 pandemic have focused exclusively on making maximum profit, instead of supporting cinemas who are more than willing to show their films. This has resulted in many delays, and films coming onto streaming services to mitigate potential losses. Another sign of their difficult relationship is Odeon cinemas (and its owner AMC theatres in the US) boycotting Universal Studios for suggesting they’ll put more films out online, on platforms where they can presumably circumvent the already seemingly small costs to show them in cinemas. Most studios have diversified monetary interests in other sectors. For example, Warner Bros. has subsidiaries in TV and Video Games, and Sony has a great deal of money in Sony Music. Cineworld and other smaller cinemas (obviously) do not have any financial involvement in other sectors, so their future is far less secure if they can’t secure the rights to show new films.

The one exception to this poor relationship is Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. Nolan fought to keep Tenet away from online streaming services, due to his love of the cinema experience. It’s an effort worth celebrating, given that it supported cinemas and that I’m sure he fielded many uncomfortable calls with the higher-ups at Warner Bros. who are now delaying films. The experiments on streaming services reflect perhaps the most likely future of film-viewing if cinema closures continue. However, more recent efforts to push films onto streaming services have done fairly poorly – it’s very likely the Mulan remake pushed out recently had a middling profit, and the success of Trolls World Tour before it was very likely a result of it being released mid-lockdown. More optimistically, if film studios begin to support cinemas more, perhaps financially or by stopping the delays, there is the likelihood that cinemas and the film industry can continue in the way it was pre-pandemic. Just recently it became legal in America for film studios to run cinemas,  so if they were able to (for example) buy out Cineworld and wait until the pandemic passes there is a great opportunity to keep cinemas open. While a monopoly of sorts on the film industry is by no means perfect, it’s certainly the preferred option. The cinema experience has, and always will be, one for people of all ages and backgrounds, and one that can’t be replicated on a sofa at home. The future of cinemas, in particular, is rocky, but there is the potential for this great experience to live on.

Tenet, distributed by Warner Bros., is currently still in theatres:

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I'm a second-year History student with a love for film and their posters.

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