Cinema: What Does the Future Hold?
Updated: Mar 29
2023 has seen notable progress in the world of cinema - especially on the equality front. Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian woman to win ‘Best Actress’ at the Oscars for Everything Everywhere All at Once, and behind the camera, the American Society of Cinematographers voted in director of photography, Mandy Walker ASC, as the first woman to win Best Theatrical Feature Film, with Elvis.
However, despite such wins, the cinema industry at large has struggled amid the pandemic, not to mention the rise of streaming services. This leads to several question, such as, ‘Have we rejected the beloved popcorn-fuelled format for home couch comforts, or will the big screen rise again?’
News of Cineworld's filing for bankruptcy in the USA hit the media late in 2022 amid much uncertainty in the wider film industry. After lockdown measures were eased, experts expected (or hoped) to see droves of movie fans return to the big screen to watch new releases. Yet, cinema chains and independent alike have struggled to stay afloat. The reasons are multiple and complex, but first-off, we ask...
Is it the FILMS they’re making?
Pre-pandemic, box office figures were reaching new heights. In 2019, a whopping nine films made over a $1Bn each, whereas in 2022, only three films reached the billion dollar mark: Jurassic World: Dominion, Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of the Water. This begs the question: if people aren’t going back to the cinema, is it because they’re not interested in seeing the films released? Or are rising living costs keeping at home? Or is it our reduced patience, with Generation Z having an estimated attention span of just eight seconds?! Is sitting in the cinema for two hours a rather daunting prospect these days? Maybe it’s a combination of the above, but either way, something needs to be done to encourage the public to return to movie theatres.
Comeback if you can!
Not only did the pandemic lead to a severe lack of ‘bums on seats’ - it also had a devastating impact 'upstream' in production of films and TV alike. Release dates for the likes of Babylon, No Time To Die and Bullet Train were pushed back, and production companies faced extensive issues with health and safety. Jeremy Braben, aerial director of photography and CEO of Helicopter Film Services (a Curious PR client) is responsible for filming some of the most iconic aerial sequences in recent cinema history. He notes, “Nobody could have prepared for the restrictions we had to deal with. The pandemic made overseas work a real mission.”
However, in some cases, production issues have not been the primary obstacle to release - rather, financial challenges. You may recall the shocking announcement in 2022 that DC and HBO Max decided during at the post-production stage to axe the movie, Batgirl, starring Leslie Grace (In The Heights), Brendan Fraser and J.K. Simmons. A number of reasons were cited, including the claim that it made more sense to ‘quit whilst ahead’ and lose $90 million as a tax write-off, rather than spending more to get the film released. ‘Waste’ issues aside - not just talent and production hours, but also the materials used to create sets, transport crews and so on - the decision led to a far wider discussion about the future of the film industry. Many asked what precedent the cancellation set for the industry at large.
What does the future of cinema look like?
On a more optimistic note, it seems that the box office trajectory may be taking a turn for the better in 2023. Anticipation for the likes of Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Dune: Part Two gives us hope for cinema’s prospects in the year ahead. Especially following the success of Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water in 2022.
Watch this video by VOX, explaining how and why theatrical release windows
have shortened over time - and how this has affected our cinemas.
You may have spotted a rising trend in a very limited theatrical run of movies before they hit streaming services - as seen with the likes of Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (with its aerial sequences by Helicopter Film Services, described here) and Luther: The Fallen Sun. Both productions were played in cinemas for just one week before hitting Netflix. Is this the way forward, or will the trend die out within the year? Will greater cinema audiences be lured by the catch it whilst you can approach?
Some argue that this trend is an attempt by film-makers to keep the cinema alive while simultaneously ensuring successful film revenue via streaming platforms. Others are more cynical, suggesting that movies can only be put forward for major awards if they are released in the cinema, so they’ll do so, but for a limited (i.e. cheaper) period of time. Paul Dergarabedian, Senior Media Analyst at Comscore, recently discussed this in LadBible, highlighting that a limited theatrical release “checks multiple boxes” for the likes of the Oscar Awards. Whatever the real reason, our team is glad to be able to view stunning visual sequences on the screen - as they were conceived to be seen - as well as supporting our local theatres!
Step aside Star Wars - it's all about the Content War now...
To add to the complexity of the current picture, right now, streaming services - often seen as a ‘competitor’ to the big screen - appear to be hitting a bit of a wall. News of Netflix’s plans to ban password sharing has been a hot topic: the practice has apparently caused an estimated $6 billion loss each year. And even Disney+, which seemed to be on an eternal upward trajectory, is losing subscribers for the first time. This is explained by Ed Waller, Editorial Director of C21 Media: ‘Drama is becoming so expensive, especially in the UK.’ Waller reports on the plight of the TV industry in this recent Telegraph article detailing UK skills shortages (in part as a result of Brexit) and exponentially-growing talent costs. These issues in turn raise the question…
Can we afford to keep High Quality TV shows going?
While the price of high quality shows has risen substantially, it’s not all doom and gloom in the realm of TV. In fact, there have been a number of positive developments in recent years - one example being the return of BBC Three to our TV screens due to popular demand from younger audiences. The Last of Us, the recent HBO adaptation of the 2013 video game by Naughty Dog Studios, has amassed an impressive 29m viewers per episode, while receiving praise for its LGBTQ+ representation. The revival of older pictures in the form of serialised prequel/sequel series also suggests a ‘TV resurgence’: Amazon Prime’s The Rings of Power is breathing new life into Peter Jackson’s classic Lord of the Rings trilogy, while HBO’s House of the Dragon demonstrates huge potential for franchises that have an active fanbase to sprout related, but fundamentally novel, series.
‘Marvelling’ at the evolution of entertainment
I myself recently visited the cinema to watch Antman and the Wasp: Quantumania at the British Film Institute, being an avid Marvel fan. Say what you will about the Marvel franchise, but its success at bringing people to the cinema is unrivalled. One feels a sense of unity: we all sit in the dark as dedicated fans, whilst also supporting the big screen - even sitting through the credits to view sneak peek trailers at the end before heading for the light!
At Curious PR, not only are we avid film fans, we also have a fascination for the world of technology, and how films are made. Working with Helicopter Film Services, we are privileged to gain views into the entertainment world ‘from behind the camera’, constantly learning about the latest technology involved. For instance, how equipment is designed and used, such as the company's TITAN ultra heavy lift drone which is powerful enough to fly a very heavy mag of 35mm film. Or how its Typhon 6- camera array yields an enormous field of vision to capture the mountains, valleys, and cityscapes that form the backdrop of many a VFX sequence - as seen on both big and small screen. Their latest showreel of a visual treat shows scenes captured for Jurassic World: Dominion, filmed in Switzerland and the UK - and many more.
Business bounces back
The entertainment industry is not unique in having suffered the impacts of the pandemic, and, in some senses, things have become ‘better’. They say ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, and the pandemic showed the genius creativity of set designers who pivoted to build extraordinarily life-like sets resembling countries far away, obviating the need to fly hundreds of people to locations on the other side of the globe.
At Curious PR we take great delight in celebrating the work and successes of our clients. As such, we were thrilled to hear of Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery’s Oscar nomination for ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’, and of recent news about five BAFTA nominations each - for Slow Horses and Bad Sisters - all of which Helicopter Film
Services contributed to with filming stunning aerial sequences.
Our MD, Hannah Kapff, was fortunate enough to attend the 2022 Televisual Bulldog Awards with Helicopter Film Services, sponsor of Best Drama One-Off or Serial, which went to the markers of BBC’s This is Going to Hurt. (Since been nominated for 6 BAFTAS.)
For many, the pandemic highlighted the importance of the entertainment industry, which kept us laughing, smiling or crying throughout lockdowns and amid widespread uncertainty. We are excited to see how the industry
continues to evolve over coming years, having established itself as a cornerstone - even, pinnacle - of contemporary culture.