Audience Confidence Deepest Concern for U.K. Cinemas in Uncertain Post-Pandemic World, Survey Finds

© Maxim Tolchinskiy

Audience confidence and increasing audiences are both venues’ deepest concern and greatest priority over the next one to three years, a survey has found.

A new survey from the U.K.’s Independent Cinema Office on the continuing impact of COVID-19 across the independent cinema sector has revealed a state of uncertainty, with the deepest concern of 81% of those surveyed being audience confidence, while 87% said that their highest priority would be increasing audiences over the next one-three years, particularly those under the age of 30.

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The survey was completed in late August by 133 respondents from independent cinemas, including chain, charity, for-profit venues, community venues, mixed arts venues and multiplex cinemas. Most venues across the U.K. are open now.

Of other concerns, 56% of respondents expressed concern around film releases, and having content to play and 48% named safety wellbeing of staff and audiences. Revenue lost due to social distancing, the ability to remain solvent, and staffing levels, remain other key concerns for cinemas.

Cinemas are trying to find a balance between safe facilities for audiences, including social distancing, with 55% of respondents still operating with social distancing measures in place, and viable operation of the cinema, with 43% of respondents still operating with 50% or less capacity.

Some 47% of venues are operating at a loss, with 64% anticipating a 50% loss on ticket sales, while 31% of venues are unsure how long they can operate with this loss. Further, 24% of venues who reported have made redundancies, amounting to 241 roles, and 15% of the venues who reported have not reopened.

45% of respondents are unsure how long social distancing measures will remain in place, and 3% expect social distancing to be in place for one year.

Some 59% respondents also disclosed the need for grants for operating costs and 51% want reduced distributor.

Catharine Des Forges, director of the Independent Cinema Office, said: “Like many industries, cinemas are still juggling the competing demands of social distancing, consumer confidence, economic uncertainty, and the responsibility of caring for staff and audiences’ safety and welfare.”

“However, what the past 18 months have shown us is how important independent cinemas are to their local audiences, and how valued they are by communities beyond a space to watch films,” Des Forges added. “For the next year, ongoing support and close collaboration between distributors and cinemas are likely to remain important while cinemas continue the process of welcoming their audiences back and returning to financial sustainability.”

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