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Has COVID really destroyed cinemas?

The impact of COVID 

We’ve all heard the phrase “they don't make em’ like they used to” but is it true? It's true that people don't care much for going to the cinema anymore with a 21% decrease in moviegoers since 2019. Is that largely COVID’s fault? Yes and no. Streaming services are partly to blame as a lot of major studios opted to put their big blockbusters on the small screen instead of the big screen.  

Marvel Studios’ Black Widow was a victim of this in 2021. Marvel and Disney were at the height of their powers after the 2019 epic ‘Avengers: Endgame’ grossed nearly $2.8 Billion dollars at the box office. The Scarlett Johansson-led action film was surely going to be another huge hit for Marvel, and it was penned in with a sweet July release date, but Disney had other ideas and decided to offer fans the chance to watch it at home by renting it for £25. For families, this was a bargain as we all know a cinema trip can be quite pricey.  

This proved to be a costly decision for Disney as it was reported they had lost $600 million from Black Widow. Usually, a film must make 3x its budget to break even. The film cost $288 million to make and the film only ended up making $379 million from its theatrical run. Black Widow needed to have made around $865 million, which would've been guaranteed it had been released before the pandemic.   

Disney’s ’rent it at home’ marketing strategy also didn't fare well as the film was pirated more than 20 million times. Johansson also sued Disney for breaching her contract by putting the film on Disney+.   

Now here we are in 2024, the pandemic is now long behind us, (touch wood) so why are people still reluctant to go the cinema?  

Has the quality of films gone down? 

Now, I'm sure if you were to ask an older person in your household this question, they'd be quick to answer with a strong yes but that is simply not the case. 

This year’s Oscars had the biggest viewership since the pandemic which shows that people’s interest in film has risen again. There were several nominations for smash hits like ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ A-list stars Cillian Murphy and Margot Robbie were at the helm of those projects and those two were leading the Internet sensation ’Barbenheimer’. The cinematic event made over $2 billion dollars and pumped money back into the cinemas.   

Audiences were just as intrigued to see how their favourites would do at the 2024 Oscars with 21.5 million people tuning in.   

Everything wasn't all hunky dory for Hollywood last year as there's still a major decline in the number of people going to the cinema. We're all feeling the effects of COVID, and the cost-of-living crisis is alarming. Families are becoming choosy over which film they take their children to see.   

For example, ‘The Super Mario Bros Movie‘ was a huge success for Universal, making $1.3 billion dollars and that was largely helped by its talented voice cast and the brand of Mario.  

But Disney released their new princess flick, ’Wish’ and didn't feel the same love as

Universal received for Mario. Both films weren't exactly praised by critics as neither project managed to get above 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is the percentage that ensures people that are interested in the film that it's worth watching.   

It begs the question as to why The Super Mario Bros Movie did better and its purely down Mario being a bigger known IP and perhaps better word of mouth from audiences.  

Disney secured their Thanksgiving release date that has served them so much success over the years. However, Wish tanked at the box office and lost $384 million dollars at the box office. 

Have Disney lost their crown as the ultimate family studio? Again, given their abysmal COVID plan to newly release films on Disney+, audiences may have been trained to assume that the new family film will be available to watch at home soon.   

Disney are slowly coming out of that now as Wish only made its debut on Disney+ in April; six months after it was released in cinemas.   

Disney has Moana 2 scheduled for Thanksgiving this year and they’ll hope and pray that it does better than some of their recent pictures. It’s certainly less of a risk as Moana is a well-established family classic and it'll be sure to bring in the masses later in the year.  

Jack Bellamy, Cohort 39,


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