In March 2020, during one of my many periods of not knowing how to process the pandemic and Lockdown, nor how the future might look for exhibition, I undertook the research project PRESSING PLAY. You can download the results of that survey here.
With the advent of the second major Lockdown in January 2021, the introduction of the mass vaccination programme and subsequent ‘roadmap to recovery’ the time felt right to return to Pressing Play.
This was a time when the sector was still unsure about its future and was rapidly experiencing major changes. But this time we could perhaps also see a possible conclusion to the pandemic.
PRESSING PLAY (AGAIN) was launched in early February 2021 and remained open until April 2021.
As well as providing an update to the first iteration of the survey, the ambition of this edition was to look into the impact of the changes happening to film distribution.
Pressing Play (Again) covered the areas of:
- How we feel future attendance by different audiences may be impacted by COVID-19.
- Specific barriers to attendance cinemas might face.
- The nature of the messages that cinemas will adopt to encourage audiences back into their screens.
- How exhibitors personally feel about attending events.
- And what type of activity may be presented as part of reopening strategies.
SELECTED HEADLINE FINDINGS
- Over 50% of respondents were confident about returning to their own social lives.
- 73% of respondents have confidence that audiences will return to cinemas.
- Just 3% of respondents were ‘very worried’ about whether audiences will return to cinemas.
- Less respondents in 2021 were anxious about the speed that audiences will return to cinemas than in 2020: 40%, compared to 63% a year ago.
- 48% of respondents anticipate a major impact on cinema attendance by customers aged 65+, compared to 60% a year ago.
- Exhibitors remain less anxious about the impact of the pandemic on cinema attendance by younger adults and families, compared to other age groups.
- Fear of infection remains the most significant expected barrier to attendance.
- 60% of respondents understand that changes to customer viewing habits may be a barrier to attendance.
- The sector is eager to reopen its doors quickly.
- Almost two thirds of exhibitors don’t intend to create an event of their reopening.
- 52% of exhibitors were concerned about how customer viewing habits have changed.
- Lack of relevant content to screen is a concern for 45% of respondents.
- 71% of respondents will lead their communications with a variation of ‘Our venue is clean and safe’ as a key reopening message, 64% with a message about shared experience, and 50% with one revolving around cinema offering an immersive escape.
- The need for audience safety remains paramount, but the value of the cinema experience and our venues’ role in our communities is vital.
- Only one third of exhibitors do not feel threatened by new models of film release.
- Exhibitors’ programmes may become more specialist or event-based in the months ahead.