“Never let a good crisis go to waste”, Winston Churchill famously said. All too often in business we can become complacent, getting consumed by the day to day and not questioning the norm. In challenging times however, we have the opportunity to re-write the rules and re-imagine how things could be for the better. Our resilient cinema industry has re-invented itself after many major challenges, and today is the start of our new chapter – both for cinema and for Celluloid Junkie.
This past fortnight, the projectors were turned back on in major markets and box office figures have been reported. Furthermore, other markets including key European territories have this week announced when they will be doing the same.
It has been well publicised that Sweden’s cinemas have mostly remained open as everyone else was locked-down; neighbouring Norway followed suit with 30 venues opening their doors from Monday 11th May. Although admissions were capped at 50 per screen, the Ringen Kino in Oslo reported 96% of available tickets were sold immediately – over 1,000 admissions. Finland will re-open 1st June. The rest of Europe will begin its roll out with Spain on 25th May for smaller venues (cinemas located in shopping malls will have to wait a while longer), Germany shortly afterwards on the 30th, Portugal and Poland on 1st June. The Czech Republic brought forward it’s planned date from the 25th May and also opened on 11th May. The UK and Ireland are set to re-open from 4th July and on 10th August respectively. Cyprus has announced the 14th July.
Despite recent reports circulating that it may be October before China re-opens (again), the unofficial green light has been given for June, with preparations well underway and analysts speculating that it could, in fact, be at the end of May. Singapore is scheduled for the 1st June. South Korea has seen a gradual re-opening of closed sites over the past fortnight, reaching a high of 106,000 admissions on 30th April (a level not seen since Mid March, with the low point being just 3000). This was down to two things: a National holiday and “Trolls: World Tour”. It should be noted however that this past week saw a decrease to 74,000 admissions, largely driven by a lack of new content. Japan’s AEON circuit opens 27 of it’s theatres today (18th May). Australia is scheduled for June 8th and some independent cinemas are already open in New Zealand – although larger chains are eyeing the end of July for content reasons.
Domestically, of the 212 cinemas that reported box office grosses to Comscore for this past weekend, 117 of them were not drive-in theatres. Concentrated around Texas, Utah and Georgia, these included two of the EVO Cinemas deploying their extensive and thorough COVID-19 guidelines. Early indications suggest that both the Schertz and Kyle Crossing cinemas experienced around 100 non drive-in admissions each day on their opening weekend of 8th May, and with the market up 78% this weekend just past, consumer confidence is returning. Interestingly, it appears that it is largely the family titles audiences are returning for.
Ordinarily, a cinema opening would have been marked with huge celebration yet has passed without any major fanfare. While it may be entirely appropriate for a cautious, sympathetic and low-key public-facing approach to re-opening, this is huge news. Finally, albeit cautiously, we are welcoming people back into our world and out of their own for a few hours.
‘Re-Opening and Re-Imagining Cinema’
The cinema community has seen some of it’s finest and most creative ideas surface during lockdown, from launching their own VOD services; hosting virtual film screenings and working with screen advertising agencies in creative new ways; and we’ve even seen a resurgence in drive in theatres. Exhibitors have worked together to embrace this crisis as a new opportunity and have thought of innovative methods to communicate and engage with customers as we have explored over the past few weeks. And now should truly be seen as a turning point. As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated “there is no return to yesterday in life. When we reopen, how do we become the better for it?”
Which is why Celluloid Junkie is proud to present a series of articles: Re-Opening and Re-Imagining Cinema. Over the coming weeks and months we will bring you of the latest information to enable the industry to transition from closed to open: from how technology partners are helping to facilitate and implement social distancing measures; practical and operational concerns such as health and safety measures and staff management; programming during the transition period and communication to customers. We’ll also be highlighting global and nationwide initiatives in key territories, as well as working with industry bodies such as CTC – the Cinema Technology Community, EDCF and others.
But we want to delve deeper than this. We have a unique opportunity to collectively re-write the rule book.
So we will also be sharing the innovative ideas from cinema operators all around the globe, and discovering what the future of cinema really does look like. We’ll explore shifting audience demographics in the short term and how we can use this to our advantage to grow audiences and diversify our offer; how to use the additional data collected during this down time and how to reward the loyalty that audiences have shown. We’ll also be hearing from distribution and technology partners about how they are embracing the future and the changes for the collective good of our businesses.
One thing that has become abundantly clear in the past three months is our shared passion for this industry and our collective desire to see it thrive. We are particularly proud that Celluloid Junkie has engaged hundreds of weekly participants from over 600 companies in more than 80 countries at the #CJCinemaSummit. Our most valuable resource as an industry is and always will be our people, and it is important to nurture our community and provide a platform to understand each other’s markets, and for the continual exchange of information. A collective and collaborative approach will truly ensure that the Magic Of the Big Screen will be back stronger than ever.