The saying about bankruptcy is that it happens slowly and then all at once. Frankly, it's hard not to think about the cinema exhibition industry in the same way. The cinema experience has felt wobbly for a few years and nothing indicates that things are moving in the right direction.
A new report from film research company Quorum is flashing warning bells at the industry which appears to be doing nothing to keep a cinema experience alive. The report suggests that cinemas aren't doing enough to entice patrons back. Somehow an expensive video of Nicole Kidman sitting alone in an empty cinema didn't seem to do the trick.
Patronage was slipping pre-pandemic and now that cinemas have re-opened, 49% of cinema goers aren't going anymore. The findings of the report are clear:
The clock is ticking. The longer exhibition takes to address these issues, the more likely it is that non-theater-going behavior will be set.
Strategist Linda Ong:
“The research clearly shows that theaters are suffering because the pandemic intensified, accelerated, amplified all of the nascent trends that were already underway,” Ms. Ong said. “That is the definition of a perfect storm — not that various problems exist at the same time, but that they have an intensifying effect on each other.”
The problem for the cinema is pretty evident and there's nothing you haven't considered before: There's a lot of great competing shows and movies now streaming, people's TV's have gotten bigger, ticket prices are too high, etc. Ultimately, it comes down to the simple decision making process all of us have when deciding if we want to do something: Effort vs reward. And in that face off, cinemas just aren't offering enough.
The only people I ever hear championing how great the cinema experience can be is film critics. Last night I got back from a screening of The French Dispatch (I loved it, btw) where I saw it on a massive cinema screen that will be playing James Bond and Dune when French Dispatch actually gets released, plus I was handed a free Heineken and there was a really fun French Dispatch magazine newspaper handed out to every attendee. Of course critics love the cinema experience. Flash back to the weekend when I paid to see Titane on a tiny screen in a pokey art house theatre where a beer cost me $9.
Yes, the new Spider-Man film will open to $100 million plus. There's no arguing that there haven't been films at the cinema that attracted audiences. But those films also took in far less money than they would have pre-pandemic. And an entire industry cannot survive on the "success" of a handful of movies every year. Right now the industry is just hoping audiences start to find their way back to the cinema. The carrot being dangled is the big new shiny movies.
But what if that isn't enough? Right now the only demo to seriously re-embrace the cinema has been white men ages 25 to 45 who live in cities. That is not enough to sustain the industry. Especially at the expense of making these huge movie releases. This year's James Bond film No Time To Die is the biggest film of 2021 and has generated $750 million globally. But remove the cost of making the film and marketing and that film still hasn't generated a profit.
And that's where the problem is for Hollywood and the theatrical industry. For the past 20 years the industry has moved to a model that abandoned mid-priced movies (the courtroom dramas, romcoms, etc) for hugely expensive blockbuster films. Tickets are sold to an audience after spectacle... theme park level thrills. But what happens now that there aren't enough tickets being sold to justify the production of so many of these movies every year? Can Hollywood really expect audiences to go to the cinema to watch a new Adam Sandler comedy when the guy has been supplying those films to Netflix for the past seven years?
This past year WarnerMedia pissed off a whole lot of people by putting the entire year's slate of new Warner Bros feature films onto HBO Max on the same day/date as they were released into cinemas. It was seen as a win for its streaming service, boosting subscriber numbers and general attention to the platform. From next year, HBO Max will get these films after an exclusive cinema window. But anyone cheering that move have missed the reality of where this is all headed.
Cinemas aren't being protected. Original movie lineups for streaming services are making them obsolete. Why would viewers go to the cinema when HBO Max is making the exact sorts of movies that traditionally drove cinema goers and releasing them exclusively on the streaming service.
This is the current slate of HBO Max original movies. Six IP/franchise titles and a selection of smaller new titles. Doesn't that look a lot like what Warner Bros will also be releasing into cinemas throughout the year?
- Evil Dead Rises
- Blue Beetle
- The Father of The Bride
- House Party
- Magic Mike's Last Dance (AKA Magic Mike 3)
- Land of Gold
- The Fallout
- Bobbie Sue
- Field Notes on Love
And that's just what is happening with Warners. Add in all of the Disney+ original movies. Add in all of the Netflix original movies. Just weeks ago Netflix released a movie starring The Rock, Gal Gadot, and Ryan Reynolds - arguably the three biggest movie stars in the world right now. And that's just one of the 200-ish original films released this year on Netflix alone.
Effort vs reward. What is the cinema providing that the home experience is not these days? The ONLY compelling reason to go to the cinema is the size of that screen.
Netflix to start paying taxes properly in Australia
The streamer is believed to make between $790 million and $1.4 billion from Australian subscriptions. But that money hasn't been taxed in the way it should be. Instead, Netflix collected the money by way of Netflix Australia on behalf of the Netherlands-based Netflix International BV.
But that is set to change. And good on Netflix for doing the right thing here. I think this is great and it shows the company is a good corporate citizen.
From Jan 1, Netflix converts Netflix Australia from being a support service to a "local limited risk distributor of access to the Netflix service". In other words, Aussie subscribers will now be billed by Netflix Australia with local revenue taxed. The company will now be paying corporate tax in Australia.
“As Netflix continues to grow and invest in Australia, we want our corporate structure to reflect our business activities here. So, starting in the New Year, Australian members will be billed by Netflix Australia, and subscription revenue generated in Australia will be recognised in Australia,” a Netflix spokesman said.
Will other tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon follow suit?
- RIP Brandy, the pig from the Nicholas Cage movie Pig. Read: The Film Stage
- Kevin Can F--k Himself will end with its second season. Maybe a show can't succeed with a dated concept and tepid reviews? Read: Deadline
- Tales of Dunk & Egg is a new Game of Thrones spin-off in the works. Today we learned that Patriot creatore Steve Conrad will be the guy writing it. Read: Variety
- It is the biggest night of the year on UK TV. Network ITV has announced its Christmas Day lineup. Read: Radio Times
- The 2011 film One Day starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess is already being remade. This time as a Netflix series. Read: Variety
- David A Graham insists that Chris Cuomo has betrayed viewers and should be fired by CNN. Read: The Atlantic
- BBC comedy The Outlaws has been renewed by the BBC. Read: Spoiler TV
- The final batch of season 2 Pen15 episodes will be the last for the show. Read: Deadline
And Just Like That debuts on HBO Max Dec 9.
Reopening Night debuts on HBO Max Dec 20.
Selling Tampa debuts on Netflix Dec 15.
The Hungry and The Hairy debuts Dec 11 on Netflix.
What's next? Tomorrow.