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Movies Aren’t Collapsing, Just the Megaplex. How Can That Be a Bad Thing?

Trends and Insight 68 Add to collection

Leagas Delaney's Sarah Glover is ready to bury herself in a great, emotional film again in the quiet darkness that can only be found at the theatre

Movies Aren’t Collapsing, Just the Megaplex. How Can That Be a Bad Thing?

It’s fair to say few people are clamouring to crowd into a sold-out cinema right now to see the latest blockbuster. Sitting in a confined dark space for hours elbow to elbow with a stranger would not fit into any pandemic guidebook, even with a mask on. 

But how can a blockbuster film recoup the mandatory 3x the budget when sold out requires so many empty seats? Clearly the Bond enterprise isn’t biting. Few will. 

But maybe - just maybe, this could be a good thing. 

Look, I love that cool, dark, jarringly loud experience of a huge hit as much as the next person and have pre-booked tickets weeks in advanced to see movies like Dunkirk at the BFI Imax to see it as Christopher Nolan intended, even if I worried my ears were going to start bleeding just a few minutes into the film. 

However, it would be hard to argue against the fact that loud and fast have outweighed good, loud and fast for a number of years. 

Now that a judge ended the Paramount Consent Decrees late last summer, Disney, Apple and Netflix can have their big budget blockbusters in their own big megaplexes. They can add focussed and specific experiences to each film, use very specific, targeted advertising up front, even manipulate the smell, lighting and temperature. Actually, I cannot wait to see what’s up their sleeves. 

And with this vertical integration, the exorbitant amount of money the cinema companies required from films will now go back to the next film, or the experience around the film. Filling seats will no longer be the driving force behind creating movies. For these fledgling monopolies, it’s a win-win. 

However, I believe it can also be a win for film lovers too. Maybe. 

Yes, I had to dig deep to realise I was ok with the idea of the traditional cinema experience collapsing. The cinema is not only an escape, it’s a nice Friday night date together or alone.  And increasingly, that dark, judgemental space is the only way I can get lost in a film without staring at my phone every few minutes. 

But movies could become special again. 

If the movie houses are run by Apple and Disney, fine, those will be heightened experiences unquestionably. They will make a killing and part of that will definitely be from me.  

However, the other movies, all the small budget, independent, well-written, emotionally honest, dialogue-heavy movies that I love will not have to worry about giving back 2/3 of their income to the big cinema companies either. I could be dreaming here but they could make the movies they want to make instead of what will sell tickets. The freedom and independence that is currently only found in very low budget and student films can be mainstream again. 

Yes, there is a lot of speculation about the state of the movie industry after Covid-19. But why go to the negative when the negative is such easy pickings. A lack of money, lack of jobs, lack of locations. Yes, we all know this. But…. 

All many creative, talented filmmakers have right now is time. 

So, yes, the industry could go up in smoke, every high street could contain the empty shell of a closed cinema with boarded windows. But I believe around the corner and down a side street will sit the new theatre experience with fewer but better concession options, fewer seats, and no cushy recliners or foot stools. At a price we can afford again. 

Many will be day-and-date releases and that’s fine. If people prefer snuggling on their sofa with their phones in hand, who am I to judge. 

But the rest of us will go back to these smaller theatres to watch great movies, nothing more, nothing less. Honest, emotional, relevant movies one after another. 

I, for one, am ready to bury myself in a great, emotional film again in the quiet darkness that can only be found at the theatre. 

Sarah Glover is creative director at Leagas Delaney

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Leagas Delaney, Tue, 03 Nov 2020 10:03:26 GMT