We have all experienced a seismic change to our work and social lives over the past year. For many the commute has been put on hold, there is a constant knocking at the front door with deliveries from Amazon, Ocado or Deliveroo and there have been a few more direct debits being paid out to streaming services. Over the past year, 12 million people have signed up for TV streaming subscriptions which amount to about a fifth of the population.
A large part of dinner party conversations (pre-Covid) used to comprise of house prices – particularly when they are on the up; while there is no doubt just now that property prices are soaring with the stamp duty holiday, it’s likely that a large part of such table-talk when lockdown eases, will be now shared with what has everyone been watching while locked down at home.
So, what is the future of cinema? Will people leave their sofas and go down to the local Odeon, Rialto or Curzon? A lot of the aforementioned change over the past year will probably have a lasting impact on us. Prior to lockdown, 3 million people traveled in and out of London every working day. I personally cannot see that number being the norm going forward. I also think the era of home delivery is here to stay. I am less sure about the future of cinema.
The Silver Screen remains the ideal place to see the latest Bond film, No Time To Die and the new Top Gun sequel. The producers of both these films have resisted, so far, selling them to streamers. For big budget films to recoup their costs – sometimes approaching $300 million, they need the revenue from a theatrical release, and also from tie-ins, which earn more with the mega-rollout and marketing that multiple showings of a huge film can provide.
But, in order to keep these monthly direct debits rolling in, streamers must provide content and this leads to a great opportunity for independent producers. Buyers now have a greater interest in diverse independent films that can appeal to the home market. For reference to this, just look at the films that have been nominated for the BAFTAs and Oscars. The growth in independent films is now a major disruptor to the traditional business model.
I do feel and hope that cinemas stay with us, and that the great memorable evenings out that they provide, return. Whether they return to their former glory is perhaps doubtful.
As a quick rain check today, just look at the share price of Cineworld – down 40% - compared to Disney – up 40%.