The newest James Bond, the Marvel film Black Widow and the remake of science fiction classic Dune. All of them were supposed to appear in the cinema this year, but due to the coronacrisis, the premieres have been postponed until next year.
All these shifts lead to great uncertainty in the film world. For example, Cineworld, the second largest cinema chain in the world, announced this week that all about 650 cinemas in Britain, Ireland and the United States will close indefinitely from this weekend.
Fat on the bones
Dutch cinemas are also struggling, although they look better than those of Cineworld, thinks director Gulian Nolthenius of the Dutch Association of Cinemas and Filmtheaters (NVBF). Almost all 300 cinemas in the Netherlands are affiliated with the association. “We have had very good years. Most cinemas therefore had more fat on their bones, but that has disappeared because of the crisis situation.”
Thanks to the support of the government, most film theatres can still do it this year, Nolthenius expects. Until now, for only one cinema the canvas fell, “there was corona the neck stroke”.
But the recent tightening of the rules – there are only 30 visitors in the cinema room – creates new problems. The NVBF expects a decrease in turnover of 70 percent in the last quarter of this year. “And if that continues, cinemas will fall over from next year.”
The postponement of great films like James – No Time To Die – Bond does not help. Nolthenius emphasizes that there are still plenty of new films to be seen.
Cinema or Netflix?
The director of the American film Wonder Woman is less positive. Patty Jenkins, who has already postponed the premiere of the second part of the superhero film three times, is afraid that Hollywood studios will no longer want to invest in cinema films. She fears that they will instead focus on productions for streaming services like Netflix and Disney+.
But according to film journalist Nico van den Berg, it will not be such a speed. “The whole industry is built around releasing a film in cinema worldwide,” he explains. “This is especially true for blockbusters. The cost of such a film can be up to 200 million dollars. That is not profitable to get with a streaming model.”
Film scientist Dan Hassler-Forest adds that cinemas have an important publicity function. “And they are part of the nightlife. The cinema is not only a building to see a movie, but also a place to get together, to talk about.”
However, he thinks that the system in its present form is vulnerable. “Cinema operators have become increasingly dependent on large Hollywood productions or franchises with endless persecutions. Think of Harry Potter and the Marvel series.”
Pathé, with 27 cinemas the largest chain in the Netherlands, says that despite the postponement of a number of major titles, there are still plenty of films coming out and being made. “And we always have a wide film programming, including specials like Lord of the Rings and documentaries. This makes us less dependent on big blockbusters like Cineworld in the US.”
Football fans can now watch Eredivisie matches live in some Pathé cinemas:
Film journalist Van den Berg thinks that producers will not invest in blockbusters for a while. But when the crisis is over, he thinks it will come back. “The film industry is a mammoth tanker, which only changes its course very gradually. Perhaps the power of streaming services will increase slightly, but remember: until the beginning of this year the cinema industry grew considerably, especially in the Netherlands. People also paid more and more for it.”
But hes not quite comfortable. The three major cinema chains in the Netherlands – Pathé, Vue and Kinepolis – are also active in other European countries. “When cinemas close there, those chains will have a hard time. They depend on the financing of their parent company.” Or, as film scientist Hassler-Forest puts it, “You dont get a domino effect so much, its just that one plug goes out.”
The Dutch branch of Pathé, which has a French parent company, says that there was a reorganization in August, in which several dozen functions were declared supernumerary. But all cinemas remain open, says a spokesman. Since the reopening of the film theatres on 1 June, Pathé, with its limited capacity, received more than 2 million visitors, half the number of visitors during the same period last year.