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Are the curtains closing on the cinema experience?

The experience of going to the cinema was first established in 1895 when the Lumière brother’s short films were shown in a public screening in Paris. Since then, cinema as a business has had a great run worldwide, but with the rise of channels such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and easy access to online streaming services, is the cinema experience – as we know it – slowly dying? Even Martin Scorsese himself said, “Cinema is gone. The cinema I grew up with and I’m making, it’s gone.” What hope do we have, if, even Scorsese himself, thinks cinema is dying?!

Anyone who shares a deep love of film will tell you that watching a new film they have been dying to see is always a better experience at the cinema, rather than watching it from home. This is due to the overall experience a cinema can offer; excellent audio-visual impact, state of the art projection and surround sound – all thrown in with the excitement of seeing the film. However, with the ever-growing avenues of home viewing options, we now have endless films and series that we can enjoy in the comfort of our own home. Additionally, with the advancement in technology, we now have access to 3D TV systems with built in surround sound for use in our very own home. Because of this, and other factors including the price of a ticket to the cinema, we are seeing less, and less people head to the cinema.

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From an all-time high of 1.64 billion in 1946, admission to the cinema in the UK has been gradually declining over the past 80 or so years, with an all-time low in 2014. The magic of the movies has always been the exclusive content that you cannot see anywhere else. However, according to multiple reports that came out of CinemaCon, major studios such as Disney, will in the future, pave a way for new releases to be streamed online at an additional cost, closer to their release date. Which suggests the cinema experience as we know it, could soon be on its way out.

But what can we, and the industry, do about it?

With the significant progression in technology year on year, there are many opportunities for theatres to explore, that will enable viewers to have a more elevated viewing experience. Some of these options have already been undertaken and implemented.

For example, Cineworld are now offering viewers a 4DX cinematic experience that stimulates almost all five senses through moving seats, and special effects such as wind, fog, lightening, water and special scents. Although this new cinema experience will be something some people may have never experienced before, it comes at a hefty price. The issue of creating special odours and fragrances, is that they are expensive to replicate. The same goes for moving chairs – which is why the price of an average ticket to see a film played through this experience is a whopping £18.30 per adult ticket. No doubt that there’s a world of difference watching a film such as, Avatar, in the comfort of your own home in contrast to a theatre screen, especially with technologies such as IMAX and 4DX, but is it enough to get the box office booming again?

Another change cinemas have implemented and can continue to do, is supplying the comfort factor to each customer. A classic example of this would be the “Everyman cinema” which spans across the UK. Bringing the comfort of your living room to the cinema, customers are treated to luxury sofas and waiters serving food and drinks throughout the movie – almost like a glorified restaurant with added extras. This type of cinema has been a hit trend in recent years but after you’ve experienced it once, will it stop the cinema crashing? Although I haven’t tried a cinema like this myself, I have always heard from others that they have never been more than once, as a treat!

A factor that also puts people off going to the cinema is… other people. Personally, I feel there’s nothing worse than sitting in the screening room, excited to watch the latest film, only to be greeted with giggles throughout the movie from behind you, or someone getting up for the toilet every 5 minutes and knocking over your popcorn on the way out. I don’t think there has ever been a time when I’ve watched a film at the cinema without a handful of interruptions! Another way cinemas could develop to help this is by having private screening rooms, the experience of the cinema, without the interruptions! A private space that could be rented by yourself, a group of friends or a special date night. What better way to enjoy a new movie on the big screen and best of all, by reserving the whole room.

By Winnie Ellis-Hall - Admin Assistant

"However, to keep it going for now – as it’s nearly the weekend, what better time to pick a film you fancy, head on down to the cinema, treat yourself to a hot-dog and a big box of popcorn, kick back and take a break from the never-ending Netflix binging."

But is this all going too far? Are we trying to save an industry that has just declined over the years?

Admittedly, all these concepts over-rule the cinema experience model. However, simple changes like these could be the difference between the tragic downfall or the great survival of cinema.

No matter how much some of us love the cinema, the plethora of viewing options at home does means that cinemas are facing a battle to bring back the loyalty of the public. It is unclear yet, what lengths we must collectively go to in order to salvage our cinemas. But what is clear is that, with inflation and the availability of channels such as Netflix, a change needs to happen for the cinemas to bring it back. Whilst they have not completely deteriorated yet, there is a risk and it’s down to us as viewers to come together and indulge in the cinema experience for as long as we can. Maybe this is something we need to re-visit in 5-10 years’ time to see if, or how, the cinema experience has changed, or whether it still exists at all. However, to keep it going for now – as it’s nearly the weekend, what better time to pick a film you fancy, head on down to the cinema, treat yourself to a hot-dog and a big box of popcorn, kick back and take a break from the never-ending Netflix binging.