With the recent closure of Cineworld and Picturehouse cinemas, many are asking the horrifying question: is this the end of the cinema industry?
My gut answer to this question is no, I do not think this will be the end of cinemas. Cinemas offer a unique viewing experience that cannot be mimicked. I think that there will continue to be a high demand for cinemas as long as films are being produced, or at least for the foreseeable future. On the down side, it is undoubtedly true that the cinema industry will be financially unstable for the next few years and will struggle to recover from the revenue loss that Covid-19 has brought. The cinematic experience is one that brings people and cultures together from around the globe. Cinemas are a crucial part of the filmmaking and film viewing process, and since film is one of the most appreciated art forms in our modern-day society, I argue that the government should be allocating money to ensure that cinemas do not financially collapse due to the virus.
A major issue with cinemas during the pandemic is that there are not enough new blockbuster films being released to enable large cinema chains to generate a profit. The operating costs of chains such as Cineworld are too great to stay open when there are so few films being shown. These chains are not only the biggest cinema chains in the UK, but also in the United States: Cineworld owns the Regal Cinema chain which has cinemas in all 50 states in America. However, smaller, privately owned cinemas are still able to remain open all over the UK, such as Scott Cinemas, Storyhouse Cinemas, and Curzon Cinemas. In Glasgow, the independent cinemas that remain open include the Glasgow Film Theatre and the Everyman Cinema. The fact that these smaller cinemas are able to remain open gives me faith that the end of cinemas is not near.
Safety has also been a major concern for cinema goers, since attending the cinema requires being in an enclosed, indoor space with a bunch of strangers. However, many cinemas have taken proper precautions to ensure that all customers are safe, such as requiring masks inside, limiting the amount of people allowed in each theatre, and ensuring spaced-out seating. Cineworld reported that there were no cases resulting from visiting their cinemas before their recent closure. China has been able to reopen cinemas safely with a set of new, stricter rules including no food or drinks in theatres, a limit of 30% capacity, temperatures taken upon arrival, and a mandatory mask wearing rule. China shows that it is possible to reopen cinemas in a safe way. When the film industries in America and in the UK begin producing more blockbuster films again, people will return to cinemas, because of the high demand for the cinema viewing experience.
Cinemas have been an important part of the film viewing experience since film was first created; they create isolated communities in which everyone can have the same viewing experience. Even with the introduction of VHS tapes in 1977, and the introduction of the DVD player in 1997, cinemas still remained relevant and popular because of the unique experience they gave to audiences. While viewing on television sets grew popular, since it was a new way for families to watch films privately from the comfort of their own homes, a private viewing of a film could not replace the experience of seeing a film for the first time in a cinema. Even in today's world, when many of us watch films on our laptops and phones, these ways of film watching still generate entirely different experiences. While in a cinema, the surrounding darkness, loud audio, and the massive screen demand the audience’s attention; viewers are captivated and forced to focus solely on the film before them. This varies greatly from watching a film on a family television (where the distractions of your home may interfere) or on a laptop (where there may be distractions in your room or on your phone). In a cinema, other viewers are expected to be quiet and no phones are allowed, which means that as a viewer your attention will be fully directed to the film before you.
For these reasons, there can be no replacement for the cinema experience, which is why I do not believe that the pandemic will be the end for the cinema industry. However, due to the financial crisis cinemas are in, I do believe that the government should allocate funding to ensure that cinemas do not undergo financial collapse. The cinematic arts are worth funding as they are a creative outlet through which people from all around the globe are able to communicate their unique perspective. Thousands of jobs rely on the film industry succeeding, and more importantly, thousands of lives depend on film as an art form. After the pandemic is over, people will miss the cinema experience, and business should hopefully return to normal. However, it is imperative that we all attend the cinemas as soon as it is safe to do so as our support for the cinematic arts is more important now than ever.
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