Covid might have hit cinemas hard, but the buzz surrounding them will soon be rediscovered
Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney Plus have continued to challenge cinemas for the title of the best platform to enjoy drama. Easily accessible from the comfort of your sofa, does the faff of planning in advance, purchasing tickets and overpriced snacks, and travelling to watch the latest new film fit into the growing digital era?
With COVID-19 hitting the film industry hard, media companies have turned to online services to stream their new releases, sparking suggestions that cinemas are becoming redundant. PIXAR animated film Onward was released on video-on-demand services just over a month after the US premiere in 2020 and while OSCAR-winning Nomadland was available in US theatres in February, it is via Disney+ that it reached UK audiences for the first time this month.
The accessibility of blockbuster films from home threatens the purpose of cinemas, yet does this really mean society will be uninterested in returning to them? I believe not. Convenience is what draws us to our sofas and sitting rooms, experience and community is what hauls us to the cinema and has ensured its survival. The invention of the television in 1927 was thought to bring an end to cinema trips, and when DVDs and VRs were fashionable there was a moment of fear throughout the industry, yet they pulled through. Yes, cinemas have struggled through COVID-19, like many in the entertainment and hospitality sector, however, this isn’t the only threat it has waded, even thrived, through. During the two World Wars cinemas released propaganda and become a hub for news updates, drawing audiences and against all odds becoming a safe haven where crowds could forget reality and come together.
Indeed, cinema doors have been shut and their income hit hard, yet rather than failure, I see a renewal in the excitement surrounding them and a refreshing twist in their style. When talking to the Guardian, Vue Cinema CEO and Founder Tim Richards argued they would survive, they just “need movies”, explaining how by releasing more films and widening their selection, they’d draw in audiences. Thus, it is through an increased variety that cinemas will continue to hold their place on the high street. Entertainment is no longer limited to films and television series, it’s musicals, operas, ballet, concerts, orchestras, recitals and so much more. To keep up with the growing digital era and entertainment industry cinemas must adapt to their changing audiences. Yes, after a long day at work employees may choose a cozy evening at home, but cinemas will still be a hit destination for children’s parties, a date night, or a way to watch the new exciting drama. If cinemas increase their variety, those who couldn’t get tickets to Hamilton or Swan Lake but wanted to experience the social aspect of drama may be drawn to cinemas, and those, like me, who are fed up of watching film after film from the same seat in the same room might choose to mix it up.
Cinema offers experience. At home, there are distractions: an egg timer reminding you your roast chicken is burning, the sound of your teenage son’s music pounding through the walls, or the niggling noise of continuous traffic. Cinemas bring focus. Everyone is invested in the action filling up the big screen - an extra-large Leonardo DeCaprio is an obvious bonus - and friendly reminders regarding your phone remove the distraction of Snapchat stories or Instagram lives. There are people everywhere to laugh, cry, or jump with when James Bond gets the girl and defeats another bad guy, and don’t get me started on the cinema-exclusive Frozen short-film played with the previews - they always get me excited for my next trip.
So yes, cinemas have struggled through COVID-19 and the rising interest in streaming services. Perhaps they won’t be exactly how we left them, but with some small alterations here and there - and cheaper movie snacks - cinemas will survive. They will not be visiting Hades in the underworld anytime soon and the buzz surrounding them will be rediscovered.