What Should Cinemas Change When They Re-Open?

As cinemas begin to finalize plans to reopen their sites in England some of which may not have opened for over 12 months, there is a lot of optimism in the air.

Audiences are eagerly awaiting the onslaught of blockbusters and entertainment that is in the pipeline, but the experience can no longer be the same.

Whilst streaming isn’t as to what some people would have you believe a ‘killer’ to the theatrical experience, 12 months of it will have changed a lot of audience’s habits.

As every cinema will be battling against a horrific 12 months financially, they’ll all want to hit their stride straight away, but only if we see some changes.

Cinemas need to invest in auditoriums

Vue Cinemas COVID 19

Credit: VUE

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Now unfortunately due to the past 12 months, and hearing from financials, we won’t really be seeing any expenditure unnecessarily over the next year.

Due to the fall out from the past 12 months of lockdown and reduced income.

However understandable that is, it is very obvious especially in older chains cinemas, that some cinemas have fallen well behind in the comfort and attraction departments.

This becomes more apparent when newer cinemas open nearby.

In the past 6 years of data (2014-2020), the UK has seen an extra 100 Cinemas opened.

29 Cinemas opened in 2019

In 2019 over 29 alone were opened.

Within local distance for myself, there are 4-5 new Cinemas opened despite 3 pre-existing Cinemas being already around in the market.

That in itself is a problem.

The newer cinemas are taking away customers with better quality seating, auditoriums and screens, however…

They are sharing the same customers between 5 sites. Inevitably the more modern, upgraded cinemas will most likely survive. 

Food & Drink Units around the Cinema


Credit: Empire Cinemas

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In the UK there is a huge pipeline of new Cinema sites being built even during the lockdown, and being offered to cinemas to operate.

Over the past decade, local councils have seen the uplift a cinema can bring to a community in terms of the economy and jobs.

In some cases, these are becoming the ‘tent pole’ for new retail or leisure park developments.

Offered free rent or reduced terms, and for many, the councils will actually fund the fit-out, or development of the cinema itself.

It’s a win-win. No fitting costs and cheap rent

For an operator like Cineworld, it’s a win-win situation.

No upfront cost, a cheap lease and all they have to do is staff and run the place?

But, due to the ongoing fall out from Coronavirus, and a struggling sector we are seeing more and more companies close or go into administration.

This means many units which should be filled with restaurants, cafes or bars next door to Cinemas are now empty. Abandoned.

And due to rising business rates, and ridiculously high landlord lease terms, it’s becoming even more difficult to attract new tenants.

If cinema leaders cannot put pressures on these landlords to find these tenants it will severely reduce the ‘night-out’ feel for a cinema visit.

The average customer will make a night of it, a meal before a movie, and perhaps a drink afterwards.

More Varied Content

vue cinemas

Credit: Vue cinemas

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Now, this is something that is very difficult to achieve for some brands. You are at the liberty of the distributors, and for the most part if Disney wants 5 screens at 7 pm every night, they are going to get it.

But what we saw in the past 12 months for those Cinemas that opened when they could, we had a strong presence from British independent studios that attracted audiences.

We also saw an older film catalogue play in the absence of the releases expected. Now, this isn’t something that is that profitable or should be done all the time.

But it could be prudent, to listen to your local market, what performs well at each individual cinema and begin tailoring more to the market, than the whole country.

A Pricing Structure That Works

Amazon might end up owning AMC cinemas

Credit: YouTube

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With the impact of the past 12 months, every penny counts especially for families looking for an occasional visit.

Now of course Cinema is a luxury, and certainly, you expect to pay a little more for snacks/beverages as a result.

But introducing more attractive ticket prices, may not only increase the ticket sales but also as a result.

£3-4 cinema tickets are out there

Vue often offers £4 tickets in some areas, Odeon has been known to offer £3 tickets, as have Empire who ran a hugely popular £2.95-£4 Tuesday deal with all tickets at a low price.

However, some places offer tickets from £12-£15 per person, outside of London which is an insane cost when you begin to tally up 2-3 people and even popcorn on top of that, to around £40.

Whilst you are getting a theatrical experience on a big screen and surround sound, for half of that price you could rent Godzilla vs Kong for £16 on YouTube, order a takeaway for less.

Whilst I’m a big supporter of the theatrical experience and what separates it from home viewing, you cannot deny for some people it is perhaps too expensive in certain areas.

What do you think?

Do you have any other suggestions of what Cinemas could do to improve?

Will you be heading back on May 17th?

Let us know in the comments below.


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