Cinema Industry response to the COVID-19 pandemic: Part 2
One year ago in May, Can Factory published a research article looking in to how the Cinema Industry was responding to the then new COVID-19 Pandemic. We thought it would be interesting to revisit this topic and to examine how the global Cinema Industry is faring 12 months later. We will look at some ingenious and creative ways that different companies have handled the pandemic.
Some of the original ways that Cinema companies looked to secure revenue was through Drive-in cinemas where possible. They also sought to keep customers engaged through things like streaming parties to help tide over the various lockdowns. Whilst these may have helped in the short term, insolvency is now a pressing issue for some of the worlds largest cinema chains.
Moving forward, there are a number of obstacles facing the cinema industry, and a number of questions being asked.
Empire magazine will be publishing a special issue in March 2021, with contributors including Daisy Ridley, Spike Lee, Jon Favreau and one of the all time great directors, Steven Spielberg. An excerpt from the upcoming issue was released ahead of time, quoting Steven Spielberg and his thought’s on the future of film:
“In the current health crisis, where movie theaters are shuttered or attendance is drastically limited because of the global pandemic, I still have hope bordering on certainty that when it’s safe, audiences will go back to the movies. I’ve always devoted myself to our movie-going community — movie-going, as in leaving our homes to go to a theatre, and community, meaning a feeling of fellowship with others who have left their homes and are seated with us. In a movie theatre, you watch movies with the significant others in your life, but also in the company of strangers. That’s the magic we experience when we go out to see a movie or a play or a concert or a comedy act. We don’t know who all these people are sitting around us, but when the experience makes us laugh or cry or cheer or contemplate, and then when the lights come up and we leave our seats, the people with whom we head out into the real world don’t feel like complete strangers anymore. We’ve become a community, alike in heart and spirit, or at any rate alike in having shared for a couple of hours a powerful experience.That brief interval in a theatre doesn’t erase the many things that divide us: race or class or belief or gender or politics. But our country and our world feel less divided, less fractured, after a congregation of strangers have laughed, cried, jumped out their seats together, all at the same time. Art asks us to be aware of the particular and the universal, both at once. And that’s why, of all the things that have the potential to unite us, none is more powerful than the communal experience of the arts.”
A cautious yet uplifting message from Steven Spielberg.
British Film Institute
In our original article on this subject we highlighted how the new CEO of the BFI, Ben Roberts was spreading an optimistic message about the survival of the film industry through the pandemic. The BFI has further supported the British Film industry over the past year, including drawing up a recovery plan for the industry as well as the establishment of funds to support struggling businesses.
If you are working in the British Film Industry and are looking for support, you can read an informational BFI article here.
Amazon is more involved in the film industry than the cinema industry (for the moment!) with their Prime Video service competing against Netflix and Disney +. In August they donated £1 million to the UK Film and TV Charity’s COVID-19 response. This included donations from other organisations such as BAFTA, BBC, and Sony Pictures Entertainment. Amazon’s donation was part of a wider $6 million commitment towards the European TV, film and Theatre production community.
A ray of hope? New Zealand Booming
With film companies and directors looking for safe places to film, New Zealand’s efficient handling of the pandemic has provided a location for Hollywood to move their production to. The country’s commendable response to COVID-19 saw New Zealand effectively eliminate the virus.
Films including the sequels to Avatar directed by James Cameron and Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series both filmed in New Zealand during 2020. Cameron said of the location “We’re very lucky in that we chose this as our production site years ago, we made the first film here in New Zealand and it turns out to be ranking first or second-best country in the world for its Covid response.” The continued production of filming in New Zealand was helped by the country agreeing to allow filmmakers back in to the country, under the condition that they quarantined for 14 days upon arrival.
UK Cinemas against COVID-19 Vaccine Passports
The CEO of the Curzon Cinemas chain in the UK, Philip Knatchbull, recently confirmed to Deadline that the cinema was considering hosting both vaccine-only and jab-free screenings. He added that “it is not viable to continue with blanket social distancing measures indefinitely”. The article goes on to say that executives at other major cinema chains will only use vaccine passports for screenings as a last resort. They cited unfeasibility of enforcing the rules, and undue burden on employees who are already under stress due to reduced employee numbers.
So what do we think? With vaccinations rolling out across the globe, there is definitely cause for optimism. However, if the past year has proven anything, it is that nothing is guaranteed.