It is the last week of August. The last week of summer. It is supposed to be one of those weeks where we struggle to find even a single story to include in the Marquee. The kind of week some might refer to as “a slow news week.” It was anything but.
If it wasn’t headlines predicting the death of the industry’s second largest cinema operator, then it was news stories about the rebirth of a subscription moviegoing service many had written off years ago (yes, that one). Not to mention the wave of punditry generated by industry and financial analysts pontificating on the dire straits of the movie business due to a slim fall release schedule. Never mind that few, if any, of these pieces ever mentioned the international markets where at this time of year local productions traditionally get a shot at a theatrical release without being pushed out of the way by the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
Then there was the announcement of National Cinema Day which will take place on 3 September. The promotion will see movie tickets deeply discounted in the Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The Cinema Foundation in the US and Cinema First in the UK, who put the program together, did yeoman’s work to build awareness of National Cinema Day in the week run-up to the event. They landed stories in every major, medium sized and minor media outlet in all four markets, followed by additional headlines generated by exhibitors announcing their own participation throughout the week. This kind of earned media, on this scale, is not easy to come by and usually valued by public relations firms in the tens of millions of dollars, or in the case of the UK, pounds.
As expected, included in some of these news items was mention of a weak release schedule and sketchy analysis about how the cinema industry had to hold such a promotion as a last ditch effort to save abandoned movie theatres after the pandemic. Apparently the grosses on “Top Gun Maverick,” “Minions: The Rise of Gru” and “Thor: Love and Thunder” are the exceptions that prove this theory. Of course, held up as a poster boy for the sorry state of the industry was Cineworld, with reports they are preparing to file for bankruptcy.
The only thing I want to mention here about Cineworld is that regardless of any schadenfreude some may feel over the its current financial predicament or that of its owners, nobody in the industry wants to see the company or its US chain, Regal, collapse. It would engender, if not exacerbate, a negative market sentiment and have a wide ranging deleterious affect on the entire business; from landlords, financiers, solutions providers, equipment manufacturers, film distributors and even other exhibition chains. That might be why UK distribution companies are reportedly continuing to supply films to Cineworld.
My only criticism of National Cinema Day is more personal and has to do with the title of a specific current release. I have been asked at least two dozen times over the past week by friends, family and neighbors whether I could recommend anything for them to see in movie theatres on National Cinema Day. Initially, I answered quickly and confidently with, “Nope.” After seeing the puzzled look on their faces I had to explain how “Nope” was Jordan Peele’s latest film and I’d heard good things. I have yet to see it and was hoping to do so on Saturday. Unfortunately all the National Cinema Day showtimes at the theatres near me are now sold out.
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Celluloid Junkie is the leading online resource dedicated to the global film and cinema business. The Marquee is our newsletter focused on motion picture exhibition; keeping industry professionals informed of important news, the latest trends and insightful analysis