Senior audiences not catered to, claims top cinema exhibitor

A cinema with taped off chairs for social distancing
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This week’s international cinema owners’ convention has tossed up an alternative reason why senior audiences haven’t returned, post-pandemic. 

This week in Las Vegas, CinemaCon is on, the annual event for cinema owners across the world to get together and fix artificially-high popcorn prices for the coming year. Well, maybe not, but according to Kevin Smith (who hasn’t stopped crowing about this for weeks on his Fatman Beyond podcast), they do get to watch upcoming movies early, including the highly-anticipated The Flash, so it’s not all serious business talk.

Still, how about some serious business talk? According to Screen Daily, Jane Hastings, MD and CEO of Australian exhibitor EVT, spoke to attendees at a panel regarding global audiences, telling them that the pandemic isn’t to blame for older audience members not returning to cinemas. We covered a story just yesterday (also originating from CinemaCon) which revealed that the global theatrical box office this year is estimated to still be 20% down on pre-pandemic levels. A chunk of that shortfall is due to it proving particularly tricky to lure older audiences back into cinemas.

According to Hastings, it’s a lack of films geared towards them that is the root cause of the reluctance to return, rather than any lingering fears about Covid. As she puts it, “our seniors audience simply hasn’t had the films to see and that’s why they’re not coming. They’re a regular audience. From our research it’s not Covid behaviour; it’s that there haven’t been films for them to see.”

What’s your take on this? That market of older audiences is undoubtedly crucial to the health  of cinemas, not least in the US where they made up 40% of all ticket sales in 2019 according to the Motion Picture Association of America. This does feel like a case of ‘if you build it, they will come’, with 2022 movies such as Elvis and Top Gun: Maverick successfully drawing out older audiences with stories or intellectual property geared slightly more towards them.

Hopefully, studios have cottoned onto this and we’ll see a more developed slate of films for older audiences in the year to come, helping cinemas to reach those pre-pandemic levels once again and making the cinema an inviting destination for everybody, as it should be.

Image: BigStock

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