The imminent demise of British cinema has been much talked about for years, yet the supposedly doomed industry continues to fight back. In spite of fears about the ready availability of films online and the popularity of home and portable cinema formats, British cinema is finding ways to grow.
The first quarter of 2014 saw unrepresentative figures, however, as the Easter weekend fell late this year, resulting in a loss of over £2m in admission receipts on the first quarter balance sheets. Furthermore, the forecast of a warm summer and a month of televised World Cup football have posed further challenges to the industry.
British cinema’s revival remains uncertain, according to the Hollywood Reporter. But the slight fall in total box office takings for 2013 (down 1.6 per cent on 2012) was not a cause for concern, according to CEA Chief Executive Phil Clapp. Industry analysts Rentrak showed that the UK box office in 2013 totalled over £1bn, whilst UK admissions for the year also showed a fall at £166m (down 4 per cent on 2012). After a 2012 bolstered by the ‘record-breaking exploits’ of Skyfall, it was always going to be tough to improve. As David Gritten pointed out in the Telegraph, 2012 was a ‘glorious year’. In spite of this, December 2013 showed a 9 per cent improvement on the last month of 2012, giving optimism to predictions for 2014.
As British cinema adapts to its new environment, certain trends are encouraging. Recognising the potential of the older demographic and their loyalty to the big screen has had positive results, as hits such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel demonstrated. Two growth strategies seem to be enjoying particular success.
Firstly, the revival in independent and luxury cinemas has exploited the nostalgia for the lost art of cinema. Everyman cinemas, for example, started in 2000 and now owns eleven cinemas nationwide and counting, all fully licenced and providing enhanced food offerings. Everyman recently announced it was opening its newest branch – the first in East London – in the new Crossrail retail complex in Canary Wharf. Andrew Myers, CEO of Everyman Media Group, hoped it would be a “real hub of entertainment” and would “definitely add to and offer something extra special”.
At the other end of the spectrum, Cineworld has seen its revenues increase by 33 per cent in the first half of the year thanks to its £900m takeover of European chain Cinema City. Although its UK operations experienced a slight drop in ticket sales, a 0.3 per cent increase in revenues and a better performance in Europe helped to offset this weakness. Chief executive Moshe Greidinger acknowledged the difficulties facing the industry, but said: “we continue to believe in the European growth story”.