Traditionally, we assume that people go to the cinema for two reasons: either they’ve been told it’s good, or that it’s a blockbuster that simply must be seen on the big screen. Bright, Netflix’s $100m, sci-fi/fantasy/cop-thriller starring Will Smith, challenges this. It is the kind of film that would usually be sold as a cinematic spectacle and its reviews have been…not good.
But the film isn’t a flop. In its opening weekend, more than 11m Americans tuned in to watch Will Smith fight orcs, fairies and elves in modern-day Los Angeles – all from the comfort of their own home. Netflix has even commissioned a sequel.
So, do people want to go to the cinema anymore and, if not, what does that mean for the UK’s massive multiplexes and local picture houses? Is retail going to start looking for a different leisure offering?
Cinemas have begun adapting and innovating, even borrowing from their would-be assassins. Odeon and Cineworld offer unlimited access for a monthly fee. Curzon even has its own streaming platform (which it advertises at its cinemas).
Non-traditional offerings are gaining a wider audience, too. In London, the desire for cinema ‘experiences’ can been seen through the rise of the Rooftop Cinema Club or recent screenings of Jaws in swimming pools. The Prince Charles Theatre in Leicester Square frequently sold out over the Christmas period, screening festive favourites like It’s a Wonderful Life with a free mince pie, singalong viewings of The Muppet Christmas Carol and a quote-along of Elf.
Around the UK, developers are choosing boutique cinema chains as well as traditional multiplexes. At TH Real Estate’s Edinburgh St James, visitors will be able to watch live performances at the Royal Opera House and the National Theatre, in addition to new film releases, at Scotland’s first Everyman.
Since the rise of television, studios, distributors and cinema chains have worried that their days are numbered. As we have learned, to our benefit, they always find a way to get you off the sofa and into one of their comfy chairs (or lilos).