Recovery for the theatrical industry was dealt a double blow this weekend. First with the delay in the release of James Bond movie NO TIME TO DIE. Then, Monday, with the announcement by Cineworld Group that it would be temporarily re-closing all Cineworld, Picturehouse and Regal sites in the UK and US.
Gower Street’s Director of Theatrical Insights, Rob Mitchell, was invited onto BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme Today on Monday morning (Oct. 5) to discuss these decisions and the issues currently facing the industry. Speaking to Today’s business presenter Dominic O’Connell, Rob said that the Bond move was probably “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.
“A lot of films have been moving for some time now and, ultimately, the cinemas need a pipeline of regular content to draw cinemagoers in,” said Rob. “We can see that cinemagoers in a lot of countries around the world, including the UK, are ready to come back. Since TENET opened at the end of August there hasn’t been another major release; there have been smaller releases coming but Bond was really the one that UK exhibitors were relying on more than any.”
Asked if other cinema chains might follow Cineworld’s lead, Rob said that, unfortunately, there was a good chance of that happening. “I think it’s kind of inevitable that the big chains were looking at what was coming down the track. [NO TIME TO DIE] would have been expected to be the top grossing film of 2020 in the UK, even before anyone had heard of COVID-19. So, with everything else moving out of the calendar it was kind of the last hope sitting there. With it gone then, particularly the big chains with a lot of running costs, will have to look seriously at their bottom line.”
He also spoke about Gower Street’s box office forecast for the UK in 2020, saying it had stood at a little over £500 million but that now it “might be a struggle to get over £400 million”.
Rob said there was now a “chicken and egg” situation between distribution and exhibition in terms of late-Q4 releases and that it needed “a more concerted effort all around to bring everything back.”
You can listen to the whole interview via BBC Sounds here or by clicking on the image above: BBC Radio 4 Today programme Oct. 5 (starting 1h 18 mins into the programme)