Could assumptions that a post-pandemic ramping-up of production would increase numbers of films in cinemas have been premature?
This week is the UK Cinema Association annual conference and as you might expect, the health of the UK industry is top of the agenda. From a spate of indie cinema closures early in the year to Cineworld’s ongoing struggles, the UK cinema industry is navigating stormy waters as it looks to chart a route to a more sustainable future.
According to Screen Daily, a report from Comscore was presented at the conference this week which challenges the assumption that the path beyond the pandemic will be a smooth upward trajectory. Although it seems pretty straightforward to assume that as the production pipelines continue to unblock following the global pandemic, theatrical releases will increase in frequency, that appears not to be the case.
UK box office numbers in 2023 so far are actually slightly down (by around 3%) on this point last year. Whilst that figure doesn’t look too concerning at first glance, the worry is that there are also far fewer confirmed titles on the horizon than in the last couple of years. At the moment, cinemas are reporting that they are using less than half of their capacity because of fewer film releases. According to the report, ‘so far this year’s pipeline of dated titles is below 50% of capacity at present, with 418 titles dated, compared to 923 in 2022 and 938 in 2019.’
That’s a mighty shortfall in films, although do look rosier for April to June when there’s a rush of movies, especially the kind of blockbusters that multiplexes need to fill seats and sell popcorn. However, things begin to look bleaker in the second half of the year when confirmed releases are tracking at a whopping 60% lighter than 2022 (and last year seemed pretty dry during the autumn if you recall). Whether this is down to late release confirmations, continued post-pandemic pipeline issues, straight-to-streaming releases or other factors will likely be a point for discussion over the coming days.
One silver lining to all of this is that younger people are now making up a larger proportion of cinema-goers, up from 56%in 2019 to around 66% now. If that number continues to grow, it suggests there is an audience out there to tap into. Still, on the whole it’s gloomy reading with the average cinema fan making fewer visits in 2023 than they did back in 2019.
Still, we’ve also seen numbers suggest that things are on the up for UK cinemas of late, and we know that data can be used to present things in varying lights. Should those predictions regarding a drought of films in the second half of 2023 prove accurate though, it could be a precarious time for the UK industry as it continues trying to right the ship following a turbulent few years.
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