I attended a very interesting webinar at the Cannes Film Festival online yesterday entitled `Cinema to Sofa.’ The discussion looked at the huge uptake in streaming, the size and power of the streamers and considered what the future of Cinema looks like.
Of course the obituaries for Cinema have been ongoing for 60 plus years. When most homes in the 1950`s acquired a box (which was usually positioned in a corner of their living room in front of a three piece suite) many thought this new age of television would usurp Cinema. Well that certainly did not happen.
Film Producers made ever bigger spectacles that cried out for a large screen such as ‘Spartacus’ and ‘Ben Hur’, musicals that became an enhanced experience when shared them with fellow patrons such as ‘West Side Story’, ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘Guys and Dolls’. Then there were films that appealed to a younger audience such as ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ and ‘The Wild One’. In later years there was more doom and gloom with the advent of DVD`s and piracy. Over the past couple of decades or so cinemas have become ever more luxurious, built larger screens and better sound systems. Various independent chains have built up niche followings for foreign films and independent productions that maybe do not have mass appeal, but do attract a substantial audience.
The panel at Cannes highlighted that the growth in home subscriptions for streaming had started before Covid and it should also be recognised that some stories are more interesting in a longer format. However, whilst Covid has taught us that there are different and various ways of enjoying content, there was a strong belief that people still want to have an evening out and enjoy a film experience alongside others. Neil Peplow from the British Film Institute (BFI) commented that the number of people willing to go to a cinema had increased from 6% to 73%. Many people want to share stories in a dark room. Last weekend in the UK the Box Office hit its highest take. It has also been proven time and again that in times of difficulty people need, and want, entertainment.
Cinema is not dead to me. I’m booked to see two Robert Altman films at the fabulous BFI in the next two weeks. To settle in a comfortable seat, with a synopsis of the film/director and be surrounded by like-minded people, without any distractions, is an absolute pleasure for me. And then at the end of the month I’m looking forward to seeing ‘The Suicide Squad’ in the local Odeon and to be sucked into another world.
Long Live Cinema!