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The Future of Cinema: Expert Analysis from the University of Derby's Nigel Douglas

A picture of a cinema ticket

This past year has been a difficult one for the film industry. Productions across the globe have been brought to a halt. Movie releases have been delayed for months or, in some cases, years. And both multiplex and arthouse cinemas have had to close their doors for significant periods of time.

The challenges for movie theatres have been heightened by several studios’ decision to move some of their biggest projects online.

Disney released much-anticipated titles Mulan and Soul on its Disney+ streaming service, for example, and Warner Bros has said it will make all of its 2021 titles available on video on demand.

Nigel Douglas, senior lecturer for the University of Derby’s BA Film Production course, has warned this is a trend that will likely continue in the future. “The main Hollywood studios are watching Warner closely at present,” he explains. “If this is financially successful, then it is likely that Disney will expand its platform followed by Sony and Universal.

“British cinemas are, on the whole, dependent on American large-scale releases to attract audiences. With most studios holding back both production and release of films, such as the new Jurassic Park, Batman, Indiana Jones and Bond movies, cinemas will struggle to attract significant audiences.”

“It is mostly cinema devotees that regularly enjoy the offer from arthouse cinema and this is unlikely to change”

Yet it is not all doom and gloom, he adds. “Cinema has consistently bounced back over decades of challenges from radio to television.

“For most cinema-goers, it is the shared experience of the big screen and full audio that appeals, and this is unlikely to change.”

This is especially true for independent cinemas, whose loyal supporters have already helped in many ways throughout the pandemic.

Venues such as Broadway Cinema in Nottingham and ArtHouse Crouch End in London have seen large numbers purchase memberships to keep them afloat while they’re forced to close, and Nigel claims many film fans will be eager to return to the big screen as soon as possible.

“It is mostly cinema devotees that regularly enjoy the offer from arthouse cinema and this is unlikely to change,” he claims, “although cinemas remain cautious on how many will be willing and confident to be in a large populated public auditorium.”

And will independent films be the centrepiece of the moviegoing experience in the future? You wouldn’t bet against it.

“It is possible that cinemas will have to broaden their offer over the next five years away from blockbuster multi-screens and support lower budget films that may not find an online audience, without the big studio marketing and platform power.”