Going to the cinema has been a classic go-to source of entertainment for over a century. For me, going out to the cinema (or movie theater if you're from the US) was the first place I was allowed to go to without grown ups. I used to rehearse my fake date of birth in order to get into films rated at 15 with my friends. I'd say the cinema box office lies taught me the fundamentals of acting and then the films we'd watch cemented the idea in my mind that I wanted to be an actress. It was a joy. Before I got the the age that it became 'uncool' to go to the cinema with parents, my mum used to take me and my brother to see a film almost every week. If it was a weekend then Dad would come too, buy us all snacks and then fall asleep after 10 mins. I've so many memories of being a cinema goer, and it feels strange to think that I haven't sat in a one for over a year. The industry faces the threat of extinction in most parts of the world, especially since Covid-19 began to wreak havoc.
The pandemic affected cinemas and dealt a massive blow to the whole industry. Movie makers delayed most releases for a better part of last year (2020) so even the film enthusiasts watching from home did not have the variety to choose from as they did previously. One way of coping with social distancing is now being introduced to us in the UK. Above you can see an example of a night at 'Secret Cinema', adopting the US style 'drive in' movie tradition so guests can be in the safety of their own car.
Even with the gradual relaxing of lockdown measures in some countries, cinemas are not getting clients as they did before the pandemic. People are suffering from the financial impact of Covid-19 that came with job losses and a decline in businesses. Some moviegoers also still live in fear of contracting the virus from the cinema. Others just can't justify the cost of the ticket price anymore and thus compare it to the amount of films available from subscription services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
It feels unfortunate that going to the cinema is becoming a thing of the past. I miss the overpriced popcorn, and the excited feeling i'd get whilst walking up the wide steps in the dark to my find my seat during the adverts, knowing the film was about to start. Technology is now taking over, with low priced streaming options. Aside from Covid, the cinema's biggest competitors are Netflix, Amazon prime, Hulu, Disney Plus, and the rest of them. Movie lovers know this as a more comfortable, safer, and convenient way to enjoy film.
In an act to compete against streaming platforms, some of the big players have made their cinema environment more appealing and comfortable by introducing high-end dining options, and premium video/audio technology. Some have chairs that move with the respective action on the screen. It seems as if, it now needs to be an enough of an experience to make people actually leave their homes.
Across the Pond..
In the United Kingdom, some cinemas are now creating unforgettable experiences by using a mixture of live theatre and cinema to bring stories to life. It seems that they are having to look beyond the traditional 'project-movie-on screen' technique. It's not Odeon or Vue or any of the big players doing this. Think independently owned companies that screen films in an immersive way such as Secret Cinema, Backyard Cinema, The Rooftop Film club. Even their company slogan is "Changing the face of Cinema".
By doing this, they aim to transform the movie-going experience from the traditional passiveness to a more engaging event. Still, the fear of Covid-19 leaves on, and there are several restrictions in place to keep viewers safe.
From costumed characters, actors, secret locations, social media buzz, encouraging the audience to dress up in theme of the film, pre show entertainment, themed drinks and food.. We are seeing all of it!
Will covid-proof cinema be here forever?
The industry may be facing many difficulties in these trying times, but we can be sure that your classic box office cinema experience will not become extinct. Experiential theatre is expensive (it's amazing don't get me wrong) and feels like a theatrical production at times. I do wonder if it will ever be scalable. As the going gets tough, cinemas will come up with ways to manoeuvre. The pandemic will come and go, and after that, I hope we will still head back to our old cinema's and enjoy film as we did before.