Will cinemas survive Covid-19?
Cinemas can now open at limited capacity – but is it enough?
Disney’s Mulan, one of 2020’s most anticipated blockbusters, will now skip the cinema entirely and go straight to the Disney+ streaming service. No search for your seat number in the dark, or the smell of popcorn wafting through the air as the lights come up and the opening theme tune begins.
Is this the end of the cinema as we know it? Cinemas have been slowly reopening since July 4 after three months of complete closure, but at limited capacity. Current UK government guidelines state that cinemas must enforce one-metre social distancing between customers, stagger film times, heighten cleaning standards and ensure that cinema-goers wear a face mask during the film.
These regulations will have a severe impact on the fun, casual evening out the cinema used to be, and are likely to dissuade many from going. This is why many film producers are relying on streaming services instead.
Struggling film producers move to streaming services
The producers behind the new James Bond film and one of the US’s “big six” film studios, NBC Universal is in dire straits after the pandemic. They ended up coming to an agreement with AMC theatres (the largest cinema chain in the world) to shorten a film’s cinema-only window from 90 days to just 17, which will have drastic consequences on their profit margin.
Having lost £429 million in three months, NBC Universal is are looking for other, non-cinematic options and recently launched Peacock, its new free streaming service (only available in the US) with a Premium option to get access to more titles.
Disney has also been hit hard financially by the pandemic, but are lucky to have launched a streaming service in November last year. Although relatively new and competing with industry leaders Netflix and Amazon Prime, Disney+ managed to garner a total of 60 million subscribers worldwide, with their subscriptions doubling in three months of lockdown.
Even before the pandemic, at Films4U we’d already realised that streaming was going to be a huge player in the film industry. For years we’ve made sure that we can distribute directly to every key media provider, including Netflix, Amazon and Apple+. With this infrastructure and process already in place, we will be able to stay as one of the top players in film financing despite the changing trends in how people consume video.
Our ability to distribute in the streaming market will be invaluable in the months to come. As customers are forced to – and are increasingly choosing to – stay at home, it’s understandable that film producers are switching to streaming services over cinema releases.
The BBC reported that 12 million Britons signed up to streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ during the coronavirus lockdown. Viewing time on these services shot up 71% in comparison to the same time period in 2019, as during lockdown adults spent nearly six and a half hours a day watching TV or online videos.
The future for the film industry
Are we facing a cultural revolution where cinemas languish, half-empty, with only die-hard cinema fans in attendance? The rest of us, in well-worn sweatpants, lounge on sofas and stream the films directly to our TV instead. As companies race to provide stay-at-home services like streaming and worldwide delivery, have we so quickly become averse to leaving the house if we can get it all at home?
Ben Roberts, chief executive of the British Film Institute, told The Guardian that the pandemic will have “forever shifted [UK citizens’] perception of access to film at home, and that’s great. [..] We are going to value everything, from a cup of coffee to the price of a cinema ticket in a different way.”
Although he admitted that the nation would have less money, he added that “the cinema experience is unique and I’m confident that audiences will start to cautiously return.”
As even multi-million blockbusters skip the theatres altogether, the industry has obviously adapted to the coronavirus pandemic, but that doesn’t mean that the film industry has ground to a halt.
Films like Avatar 2, The Little Mermaid, The Batman and multiple others are all back in production, all with plans to be released in cinemas in 2021. Streaming services are making the most of their new-found status in our lives and are likely to be releasing more independent films during this time.
At Films4U we guarantee distribution of every film we finance, and we haven’t lost money on a film yet. If you want to support the UK’s tenacious film industry by investing, then register today, or contact us if you have any questions.