Cinema is back – but who’s going to be watching?

With many UK cinema venues reopening from this week, SWL looks at whether or not audiences will be hurrying back to them any time soon.

The Covid-19 pandemic forced all cinemas to close last year, shifting the way viewers consumed films.

Instead of trips out to visit the big screen for the latest release, streaming new films at home through the likes of Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus became the couch-cosy norm.

But the easing of lockdown restrictions means that cinemas across the country, including Odeon, Cineworld and Everyman Cinemas, have begun welcoming back audiences.

Filmmaker Jermaine, 24, living in Croydon said: “Streaming is convenient, but the cinema just holds a better experience that you can’t replicate at home, unless you’re rich.

“I’m seeing every film possible in the cinema and beyond.”

Interruption-free blockbusters

Yet not every film lover has missed the cinema experience as much as they thought they would. 

Nick, 39, from Feltham said: “With all the recent home streaming releases, it’s made me realise how much I prefer my home for experiencing the massive blockbusters without the interruptions of others. 

“I’m a massive film enthusiast so I never thought that would be the case.

“Not all films come to streaming platforms though so the biggest thing I miss about cinema is the constant influx of big blockbusters.”

A Twitter poll showed the majority of people are keen to go back to the cinema

However, people are concerned about being in such close proximity to others again as lockdown restrictions ease in the UK. 

Nick said: “As much as there are many movies soon to be released that I am desperate to see, it’s not worth risking mine or my family’s health over.

“Cinemas are very confined with rows of seats where you literally squeeze past people.

“It’s impossible for the cleaners to clean the chairs properly because of the material on the seats and I personally feel they will never be able to be fully Covid-safe.”

A different experience

Before the pandemic, Jade would visit the cinema once or twice a week, but the 24-year-old, living in Hertfordshire, now has reservations. 

She said: “It won’t be the same experience as before and I think after a year of social distancing and wearing face coverings it’s going to feel really strange to be sat inside in a room full of strangers.

“Part of the joy of cinema is watching, laughing and crying alongside fellow movie fans, but right now I’m just not ready to watch movies from anywhere other than my sofa.

“I don’t think I’ll start going back to the cinema until I’ve been vaccinated.”

Tori, an entertainment reporter living in Harrow, shared similar thoughts.

She said: “I’m in no big rush to return to the cinema, especially as I’m not yet vaccinated. 

“Having said that, I’m lucky enough to be invited to screenings as part of my job and, as that’s generally a more controlled environment, I’m more likely to start taking those opportunities again before I go on casual trips to the cinema during peak times.”

Covid-19 has certainly played its part as the silver-screen baddie, decimating box office figures in its wake.

UK cinema admissions were at 44 million in 2020 compared to around 177 million in 2019, according to the British Film Institute (BFI).

The BFI also found that UK box office revenue was down 75% from £1.254billion in 2019 to £307million in 2020.

Still, the act of simply going to a cinema is an undeniable draw for film enthusiasts. 

Tori said: “People gush a lot about the ‘big screen experience’, but it’s absolutely the thing I’ve missed most!

“So many films aren’t done justice by the size of domestic TV screens.

“I also think physically attending a cinema gives more of a sense of occasion and excitement the first time you see a film.”

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