The decision to push back the release of the latest James Bond film into 2021 was the trigger for Cineworld’s decision to temporarily close (again) its screens in the UK and US; it comes at a time when the industry was allowing itself some optimism following the launch of delayed summer blockbuster Tenet.
In the UK, cinemas were able to reopen from early July and audiences were drifting back with some older content but “Tenet made the big jump for us”, Karen Stacey, CEO of cinema advertising company DCM, told Advertising Week 2020 last week.
Cinemas “couldn’t be more COVID safe”, she said, while research from the UK Cinema Association indicates that, in London, going to the cinema is one of the most-missed activities among under-35s. But “we just need more new content”.
Those were also the sentiments of Cineworld boss Mooky Greidinger, who told Sky News, “We are like a grocery shop with no food”. And he echoed the safety point: “People are saying to us that they feel safe in the cinema, so I guess it is a wrong decision by the studios to move the movies in such a way.”
The decision by Bond producers Eon indirectly puts 5,500 jobs at risk across Cineworld’s UK venues and threatens the recovery of the wider industry. “It is enraging that Eon have lost their nerve so spectacularly, pulling the movie on which the industry had been relying,” said Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw.
“Big blockbuster movies are routinely nicknamed ‘tentpoles’ for a reason,” he added. “They keep the whole big top upright.”
Cinemas are having to cope not just with delayed theatre releases – and No Time To Die is far from being the only film being pushed back as studios hedge their bets – but also streaming releases as studios have made some films immediately available for in-home consumption in an attempt to mitigate losses.
A big danger for venues is that, whatever young Londoners say about missing cinema, many people slip into new habits that don’t involve out-of-home activity. But new habits can also embrace cinema in a different way.
Stacey last week reported that “we’re seeing a slight change in cinema rituals” as audiences moved from weekend nights out to more midweek viewing as people found it easier to get to, say, a 6.30pm showing if they weren’t commuting.
“I think there’s every chance that over the next few years, if the content is still coming, that cinema admissions could go up, because the accessibility to showings throughout the week is much more,” she said.
Eon’s pronouncement makes that less likely.
Sourced from Sky News, Guardian, WARC