On Thursday, 17 February, the CJ Cinema Summit will be focusing on China. We’ll be joined by Paul Dergarabedian of Comscore who will explain how China managed to secure five of the top 10 global box office titles last week. We’ll also hear from Lawrence Wang, the CEO of Vista China about about what lies ahead for the country’s cinema market. Make sure to join us or watch the recap on demand.
The Power of Popcorn
The sale of popcorn and other forms of concessions is once again permitted in French cinemas starting this week. A similar ban is being lifted in the Basque region of Spain. When The Netherlands became the last major European market to reopen its cinemas this January, the previous popcorn-ban was not re-instituted. The white stuff is still not permitted in cinemas in much of Germany, but in pretty much the rest of Europe, cinema concessions are once again selling freely.
Popcorn has been an integral part of the cinema going experience for most of the entertainment form’s 125+ year history. Not just in terms of the experience for customers, but also in terms of the importance of concessions to the bottom line for cinema operators. Purists and cineasts might complain about mixing food and celluloid, but it is plain elitist to object to people having a snack while watching a blockbuster. At least as long as they eat it courteously and hopefully dispose of the litter at the end of the film.
Cinema is meant to be a full sensory experience. More than just immersive sights and sounds, the smell and taste of sweets, nachos, Coke, a Spielburger or just plain popcorn (salt, of course) is how we accessorize and fuel our two-hours of forgetfulness of all that troubled us during the pandemic. How many of us dreamt of popcorn when cinemas were closed? Quite a few, judging by the delivery and curbside collection services that sprung up by entrepreneurial cinema operators, many of which have lasted well into the reopening phase. It seems popcorn is not so overpriced as to put people off buying it – although it is in fact surprisingly cheap.
Popcorn is more than just the difference between profit and loss for cinemas; it is also a sign of normalcy returning to cinemas, after two years of pandemic closures, halting openings, restrictions and closures for the second, third or even fourth time. “There are no real criteria for the end of a pandemic, but it probably feels something like this,” said David Heymann, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the Financial Times this past week. Or perhaps what is tastes like. Soon mask mandates will be lifted, at least in Europe and North America, and we will once again forget ourselves in the darkness of the cinema auditorium. Popcorn will then no longer have to be the excuse for not having to wear face covering.
One of the challenges of persuading audiences back into cinemas (at least for those that were not swayed by Bond or Spider-Man) will be to remind them that cinema is a safe treat, an affordable indulgence and quick-fix dose of escapism. The smell of fresh popcorn will be a critical component of this.
By the way, Dolby, who sponsors the CJ Marquee, has not yet entered the popcorn making business (Cretors need not fear), but they cater to all the other senses of cinema with their technology. Be sure to check out their auditorium packages.
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