With lockdown easing across the globe , a number of territories are planning to open cinemas from mid-May, here in the UK we are very much looking forward to the 4th July, the earliest date the government have announced that UK cinemas can open their doors.
To understand more about how cinemas will exit lockdown and how the Industry is planning to encourage audiences to return to the big screen in a safe and sustainable way, we hosted a webinar with key stakeholders from across the cinema Industry.
During the webinar, hosted by Clare Turner, Sales Director of Pearl & Dean, our speakers discuss a number of topics including preparing for cinemas opening, innovations in cinema viewing experiences, film release patterns and insight into public sentiment around visiting cinema post lockdown.
Hoss Ghonouie , Head of Marketing, Everyman
Matt Smith , Head of Distribution, Lionsgate
Sharon Reid , Director of Marketing & Partnerships, Cinema First
George Wood, Managing Director, Luna Outdoor
Additional Webinar Q&As
Is it likely the lack of international travel will positively impact cinema attendance since audiences won’t be able to travel abroad for holidays in the summer?
Yes, with people holidaying less this year we anticipate that the summer holiday cinema viewing will benefit – coupled with the fact a trip to the cinema is an affordable treat.
Are cinemas/distributors looking to countries that have re-opened (largely in Asia, like South Korea etc) and if so, what are they discovering?
The international union of cinemas (UNIC) have released extensive research regarding the impact of the Coronavirus across the EU and all the plans for reopening. As cinemas open through May and June, UK cinemas will be keeping a close eye on what is happening to provide them with any intel that they can use to adjust their approach for reopening. For all of the UNIC’s reports, click here
As cinemas can only operate at a reduced capacity for the rest of the year, will films now have a much longer theatrical run than in recent years?
Yes, we anticipate that films may run for longer periods if the audience demand is there.
There is a big difference between 2m gaps, and 1m gaps – which might be ok as the audience all face the same direction. Is there any conversation with the government around this?
The UK Cinema Association (UKCA) are liaising closely with The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to agree safety protocols which will include social distancing requirements and hygiene in addition a whole range of measures to create safe spaces.
What is your forecast on audience sizes this year? Also, may there be a content pipeline issue in 2021 with some production halted?
We expect audiences to cautiously return initially and grow as confidence builds throughout the year. Whilst we will not have the same number of films on release in 2021, there will still be a significant slate to watch.
How can you combat a schedule that might be subject to either, a 2nd wave and/or an on/off lockdown?
If there is a second spike/lockdown, then cinemas will react in accordance with public safety to ensure the control of the virus.
What will be the balance between new releases and rescreening classics?
Each circuit/cinema will assess their own programming based on their own customer insight/demand.
Is anyone talking to the cinemas (independents or chains) to find out what their plans are (e.g. whether bigger chains plan to let each cinema decide what to show?)
Cinema First is made up of the Film Distributors Association (FDA), cinema operators and the UKCA (which represents 90% of UK cinemas) so there is ongoing dialogue between these parties.
Will lead times be extended/reduced before films become available on streaming platforms after they have run in cinemas?
We expect lead times to remain the same.
Do you think the mix of blockbuster/indie/event content will change post lockdown? Do you expect audience preferences will change as a result of viewing more content at home during lockdown?
Yes, I think there could be a change here, but I would want all films to get proper theatrical releases.
What effect do you expect the interruption of film shoots by Coronavirus to have on the film slate in 2021?
Big US studio productions such as Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Warner Bros’ The Batman can now go back in front of the cameras. According to one source, screen productions are expected to return to Pinewood around mid-June to get ready for a full return to shooting in mid-July.
How do you feel about the decision made by Universal to launch films both in-cinema and in-house, and do you feel this would be a route that other distributors take?
We do not anticipate that this will continue post lockdown. Trolls had invested in a significant marketing campaign to promote the film; we have not seen any other instances going to Premium Video on Demand (PVOD).
If the Tenet numbers are soft, is there a chance that it would be added to PVOD, or are distributors committed to cinema only?
Christopher Nolan is a huge supporter of cinema and the theatrical window, therefore the likelihood of it being available on PVOD is slim.
Some films have been put out on VOD platforms, but would love to return to select screens – but of course there’s the window. Is there scope for such films to find a theatre audience even though they have previous been on VOD?
I don’t think a film in this situation would get a ‘release’ per se, and even if it did the major chains would not play it. But it could certainly be programmed by individual cinemas (including the major chains) as a ‘one day special’, or part of a curated programme/season at an art-house venue.
Have you looked at the US as a litmus test with the government – where drive-ins are already open there and are the only source of box office figures?
We have and now tickets are on sale – the demand is great; 1,500 tickets were sold within 2 hrs of going on sale.
Drive-In is a relatively new model in the UK, and so would be embraced as post-Covid solutions. Whereas theatrical is pre-Covid so will need more convincing. Thoughts?
Insight is telling us that there is a willingness to return amongst families/teens/young adults. It will be important to convey that cinemas are safe places; this will be the message/comms from Cinema First’s Back To Cinema Campaign – to reassure the public about the measures the cinemas will be implementing
You mentioned other live performances – are you working with BFI or Theatre Live as a potential tie-up to deliver live performances with a drive in?
For the live performances George is working with a promoter who looks after a number of musicians and comedy acts. It may well be that he creates some separate venues/screens for these as the requirements are different.
In terms of showing alternative content on screen, we are exploring the opportunity to show some of the Premier League and Champions League games (subject to licensing etc.), so far, I don’t think he has spoken to the BFI or Theatre Live, but I think he is open to all conversations on content. The aim is to have approx. 80% traditional film and 20% alternative content (maybe one night/week).
Is there an opportunity to connect good quality headphones (i.e. noise cancelling over ear) to the sound system for an even better quality and immersive sound/viewing experience? (using people’s own headphones)?
It would be possible to connect one set of headphones/or splitter – but would not work for more than two people.
How do you deal with people switching on the cars for air-con and heating – i.e. the pollution aspect?
As cars are socially distanced then we envisage our audience will open their windows for air. it is never that hot in the UK in the evening to warrant having your air con on!