Coronavirus the last nail in film theatres' coffin?
Many countries have recently seen their cinemas reopen after the lockdown. But especially for small operators, the business is hardly worthwhile because the distancing rules mean lower ticket sales. In addition audiences are staying away out of fear of infection, or because they have simply gotten used to the convenience of streaming services. Commentators say the industry itself is partly to blame for its plight.
A model on its last legs
The film business is increasingly shifting to streaming platforms, the Wiener Zeitung laments:
“Now we can add Disney to the list. Because of coronavirus the release date of this year's blockbuster Mulan was postponed several times and then finally set to 'unset'. This opened up a huge financial hole resulting from the pandemic. ... They decide not to bring Mulan to the cinemas, and instead to launch it directly on the group's own streaming service Disney Plus from September 4. At an additional price of 29.99 dollars. The last taboo, the sidestepping of theatres as a commercial instrument, has now been broken. ... Film theatres seem to be defenceless against these developments - and unfortunately right now it looks as if they are being phased out worldwide.”
Good films also fill cinemas
The Tages-Anzeiger sees opportunities to keep the cinema industry going:
“Of course, the cinemas are in crisis. As in many industries, the cards are being reshuffled, accelerated by the virus. This involves finding new ideas for how online viewing and screenings in theatres can coexist. In the arthouse domain one can imagine how that could work: a wide range of online offers could inspire viewers to want to see that one particular film in the cinema. This could work not only with niche films, but also with Hollywood productions. Also in order to manage its online services, which are growing in importance, the dream factory must provide us with films shown in theatres.”
The complaints of the comfortable
France's cinema operators often say that what they really lack is films that can lure people back to the theatres. Libération is shocked:
“This discourse, which, astonishingly, was also adopted by the minister of culture, contains a terrible admission by a profession which itself lacks any creative or promising responses to the crisis. The problem is that in some cases it tends to see itself more as a cash register for large productions with inflated multi-million marketing campaigns than as a mediator of the strong, ambitious and highly diverse works that characterise the French market. Instead of Netflix or Youtube, it is ultimately the pandemic that is revealing the conservative level of comfort in which this model, which is idolised as a cultural exception, finds itself.”