March offered two major signs of recovery for the beleaguered cinema business, according to the latest report from Gower Street Analytics, London. Firstly, there was the impressive international opening of Godzilla vs Kong; the first global hit since the pandemic began over a year ago. Secondly, the long-awaited re-opening of cinemas in New York City and Los Angeles helped the U.S. Domestic market to achieve the highest grossing month in a year. With the first challenging quarter of 2021 behind us, wrote Gower Street analyst Thomas Beranek, the recovery of the global theatrical market, while still fragile, looks as promising as it has in months.
The Big Picture
The grand opening of Cinemark’s Totem Lake and XD theatre within The Village at Totem Lake in Kirkland, Texas was held last Friday, March 19. “Cinemark is thrilled to be opening a brand-new theatre in The Village at Totem Lake,” said Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi.
Can movies and TV shows be successfully archived on DNA? That question has been raised by an ad hoc working group of the international JPEG Committee. While that and many other questions remain unanswered, one thing is known: researchers recently stored an episode of the German Netflix TV series Biohackers on DNA.
For the past few years, it was a safe bet that the technology priorities for chief technology officers in broadcast and other professional media verticals involved a move to the cloud, however where it fell on the list of priorities varied widely. With so many media and technology professionals “finding the time” to move their infrastructure to the cloud, it was happening on the weekend, in the evenings, during quiet days in the office, and for some, it was little more than a hobby. The pandemic changed priorities heavily by demanding a development that has been a long time coming—a complete move to the cloud.
Resiliency is not a new term for the cinema industry. The industry has faced adversity in the past but economically has always survived. Cinemas are no longer just a place to go and watch a movie. They are entertainment destinations catering to increasingly diverse patron expectations.
Last month, as is widely known, the Nobel Peace Prize was given to the United Nation’s World Food Program for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict. What is, perhaps, less widely known is the important role that cinema advertising has played, and continues to play, in that effort. That role is led by SAWA, which was founded in 1954 as the Screen Advertising World Association. The name was changed to SAWA the Global Cinema Advertising Association in 2015, the same year the group partnered with the UN on its efforts to end world hunger. My conversation with SAWA CEO Cheryl Wannell began there.
I last spoke with B&B Theatres executive vice president Brock Bagby in April as businesses across the country were shutting down in response to COVID-19. At that time all of their theatres were dark and the company had furloughed nearly 2,000 employees. I recently emailed Bagby to see if he would agree to a follow-up interview. His response was to say yes, adding, “But it’s been a rough seven months.” B&B Theatres, the sixth largest theatre chain in North America, is not just any independent cinema chain. For nearly a century, the company has understood better than most of their competitors that they don’t just show movies; they are in show business. They believe that movies are magic and their theatres amplify the experience like few others.
This is happening almost faster than I can write it. Even a week ago I would have said the future of cinema is safe, and yet the pace is gathering so fast, decisions made seemingly on the hop, that the direction of this narrative may well have altered by the time I get to the bottom of the page. In the UK as of this morning, Cineworld, Odeon and now Vue have either closed their doors or reduced their opening hours dramatically, at the same time as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has finally produced an overdue £275 million bailout for theatres, museums, orchestras and music venues. Cinemas have again been excluded as well as being the subject of some rather unsupportive “It’s the end of the road” speculation in the press over the last week.
Barbara H. Lange became executive director of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers in January 2010. “I can’t believe how fast time has passed,” she told me. “We’ve done quite a bit over the decade.” That is an understatement. In that time the Society has digitized SMPTE’s journal, conference papers, and standards to create the digital library that provides end-users access to SMPTE’s breadth of intellectual property, as well as being a sustainable revenue stream for the organization. In addition, the Society expanded its educational offerings by increasing the number of webcasts, virtual courses, and even conference programs that it delivers with excellent technical content. Today, more people are registering to attend SMPTE webcasts than ever before.
In the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic Integrated Systems Europe, originally scheduled for February 2-5, 2021 is being postponed until June 1-4 at the Fira Gran Via, Barcelona. That includes the Digital Cinema Summit, a half-day conference produced by the ISE in association with Digital Cinema Report, originally set for February 3.