We’re seeing more of our favourite services shift to an online presence as our smartphones become our primary entertainment devices. So is this now starting to play a negative role on cinema. There are a number of reasons for this shift, whilst some may be a more temporary adjustment, it’s difficult to ignore the more permanent changes that are occurring too;
Lockdown and distancing – The recent lockdown measures and social distancing strategies put in place across the world to curb the spread of the coronavirus may only be short term, but will certainly have a longer lasting impact. Whilst measures are being eased in many countries and locations such as cinemas start to reopen, it may be quite some time before a larger audience returns, especially when alternatives are becoming increasingly available.
Video-On-Demand and streaming – The alternatives are coming in the growing number of streaming services available – the big names in Netflix and Amazon Prime have typically held older titles with their own big self-developed titles, but this is changing with the growth of Disney+ – a recent release of Hamilton forgoing a theatrical run has been incredibly successful and being touted as the most streamed piece of online content currently, and the plan to release the live action remake of Mulan directly onto the platform already shows the willingness to leave the box office behind in favour of a streamed service instead – the success of Mulan could be the catalyst in spreading change for many other studios too, a prior release by Universal and their title Trolls had already shown that VOD releases in certain instances can definitely be more successful, whether or not this can be linked to an increasing audience in lockdown or not is a different matter, but as streaming services continue to grow it’s unlikely that is the root cause.
Gaming – Perhaps the most widespread change has been within gaming as mobile devices have become the most popular platform. In some cases they have even begun to replace more cemented institutions, as has been seen during the past few months particularly with the growth of online casinos. As brick and mortar locations had remained closed around the world, a surge in real money players has been seen, with the likes of slots and roulette proving extremely popular. That has seen people regularly getting involved in playing popular online slots games, such as Quick hit and Buffalo, which have been providing a Vegas like experience. These online casinos have seen growing number of players from all backgrounds getting involved, but gaming is perhaps a more obvious sector where this shift could happen as we may be looking at a more unlikely target as cinema could be at risk.
With that being said however, it isn’t all doom and gloom for cinemas just yet – the release of the previously mentioned Mulan does come at a heavy cost as fans are expected to pay $30 on top of their $6.99 service fee to watch the movie, much higher than the lower price of a movie ticket – it is expected that this cost is to offset those who will watch as a family, rather than paying $40 or $50 for a number of cinema tickets, the cost covers many viewers, but it still hadn’t been quite well received. With no information on whether or not this is a longer term rental period or a single viewing experience, and could make a difference to how users accept the change.
For now, it has become less a question of whether or not a change will happen and more to what extent the change will happen – it’ll be a number of months before any cinemas really return to a sizeable capacity enough to judge whether or not attendance has fallen off as much as it appears, and it will also be in the hands of the studios to whether or not they also decide to make the change to an online solution – the success of Mulan and possible attendance will be the key indicators for change.