“Netflix n’ chill”. It’s become such an everyday catchphrase that we don’t think anything of it anymore. A happy couple, on the sofa, wondering what to do on a Saturday night (don’t answer that) – it’s today’s defacto boredom relief. And yet there’s still the irresistible pull of the movies, but is it quite as seductive as it once was?
On a personal level, I got bored of streaming services, as the films were either ones I’d seen a million times before, or they just looked like 90 minutes I’d never get back. Thankfully, I’m still one of those who firmly believes there’s nothing quite like watching a new release at the local Showcase, Odeon, or any other flea pit you’d like to mention.
And with the disappointment of The Irishman still fresh in the mind, that’s probably a good thing. Anyway, as everyone knows, the hospitality industry has had it far from easy over the last 18 months, and cinema is very much part of that. So, are the two factors – that is, streaming and the pandemic – an example of the perfect storm, or is the local picture house putting up more of a fight than you’d think?
It would seem that James Bond was on a licence to save cinemas this time. The long-awaited arrival of No Time to Die finally went on release, and in doing so gave things a much-needed shot in the arm, a sentiment that Jamie Turner, supervisor at the Savoy Cinema, Grantham, agrees with completely.
“People are excited for it,” he says. “More came for it than the entire time we were reopened last year. It’s been very good for business, much-needed relief.” That opening gambit may seem like an outlandish suggestion at first, but recently we’ve seen some outlandish times.
Under normal circumstances, a sheer cliff-edge-style drop-off, as illustrated in the graph above, would cause you to choke on your popcorn, but as we all know 2020 laid waste to many sectors of society, so it comes as no great shock. What’s more surprising is the steady, heady five-year period, from 2015-2019, where the figures were always way above the £1bn mark. But hang on a minute! Wasn’t this supposed to be the age where streaming services came into their own, and that dreaded phrase became etched into our psyche?
Not according to the stats. In fact, during the previous five years, the numbers barely climbed above, and even hovered below, £1bn. Netflix and the like were still in their infancy then, so were people still hungover from the recession, or were the movies simply of a poorer standard?
Clearly, 2015 heralded a new era, so perhaps once we’d all finished feeling the pinch we were eager to get back out there, so to speak. If that’s the case, then we’ll certainly be feeling like that now, so No Time to Die should be far from the last blockbuster to lay waste to the record books. It’s certainly true that there was a reluctance among the general public to get back to socialising, so the sudden upward curve in terms of footfall is more welcome than ever. “It’s been the case through the entire hospitality industry,” says Jamie. “I’ve got friends in restaurants and theme parks who are saying the exact same thing.”
That’s all well and good, but there’s been a lot of talk about the seemingly endless raft of reboots and sequels perhaps having a detrimental effect. Jamie seems quite philosophical about the whole thing: “It’s good in that it gets the public here; they like to experience it again. Certainly the movies are different, especially in terms of, say, special effects. It’s giving people more of what they want.” However, it’s not all bright sunshine: “The only downside is originality. It does feel like there’s a lot of remakes.”
Getting back to the idea of streaming services (naming no names), have they almost become an enemy of cinema? On a certain level, it’s hard to tell, but Jamie thinks otherwise:”I would say no. It’s taken an audience, but a lot of companies have tried this, and for the few movies that Disney+ got, for example, people aren’t willing to pay extra just to watch it on the small screen, they want the big-screen experience.”
And let’s not forget the pull of the final two months of the year; the most important time for Hollywood, the Savoy – anyone you could think of, in fact. As Jamie says:” We’ve got another big line-up in the run to Christmas, they’ll come out for that.” With movies like Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Spider-Man: No Way Home and The Matrix: Resurrections on the horizon, you can’t really argue with the man.
So, the big question: the future of the industry. We’ll leave it to Jamie for the last word: “It’s taken a hit, of course, but it’s been the same for big companies as well as the smaller ones like ours, in fact all across the world.”
Actually, as it’s me writing this, I’ll have the final say: Netflix? Nowhere.
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