The cinema industry could lose between $20-$31 billion in revenues in 2020 due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, compared to the robust $42 billion it generated last year, according to media and tech research firm Omdia.
“Year on year, we are around 70% down from last year,” said David Hancock, director for cinema at Omdia. Hancock delivered a presentation summing up the current state of the industry at the virtual CineEurope conference on Wednesday.
Omdia’s best-estimate forecast for the exhibition sector is 58% down on 2019 revenues. “Cinema is critically hit,” said Hancock. “Major distributors rushed to rework their film slates with knock-on effects two years down the line. The period from March to July is almost devoid of any new films being released — the most important part of the year.”
Hancock noted the movement away from cinema releases, particularly among smaller indie titles, as a way to keep some cash flow coming in, which is a more common strategy for these films anyway. However, most major titles opted to stay with a theatrical release, instead moving their dates to later in the year.
“I think that all signs are good, and people want to return. I think what we’re seeing is that the at-home experience isn’t enough,” said Disney’s global distribution president Cathleen Taff in a separate CineEurope panel on Wednesday.
Hancock said surveys suggest there is a pent-up demand among audiences to return to cinemas, but it would take time for them to feel safe returning to entertainment venues of all types, including cinemas.
“The key issue now is reassurance,” said Hancock. “At its core, cinema is a social medium that brings people out of their homes for a communal experience. This is the point that critics of cinema always miss. During this unprecedented circumstance, cinema’s strength has become its weakness. Being social is perceived as a threat today with physical distancing being labelled social distancing. Hence the public needs to be convinced that being in a social space is a safe place to be.”
For any prospect of a summer season, the timely reopenings of a few key markets such as the U.S., China, U.K. and France is important, Hancock said.
The launches of “Tenet,” “Mulan,” and “Wonder Woman 1984” over the summer will also allow the industry to assess the impact of COVID-19 and people’s attitude to cinema-going in a post-coronavirus world, Hancock said.
“People need cinemas, movies need cinemas, society needs cinemas,” he said.