Cinema chains pin hopes on Tenet to draw au­di­ences back in­side

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Charles Gant

CINE­MAS are hop­ing that the ar­rival of Christo­pher Nolan’s Tenet – the first block­buster re­lease since they re­opened in early March af­ter months of lock­down – can get film fans flock­ing back to the sil­ver screen.

The lack of new re­leases since re­open­ing, along with au­di­ence cau­tion, means ticket sales have been at his­tor­i­cally low lev­els. Tak­ings were just over 2pc of the 2019 av­er­age in the first week and have only risen to 6pc.

While op­er­a­tors are re­lieved to see the num­bers mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion, that in­crease has mostly been driven by the steadily grow­ing num­ber of cine­mas re­open­ing.

The sig­nif­i­cance of Tenet is hard to over­state for cinema op­er­a­tors. If au­di­ences do not come flood­ing back, fore­casts for the rest of the year and be­yond will have to be down­graded.

The lat­est fore­cast from Gower Street An­a­lyt­ics, which of­fers a re­lease date op­ti­mi­sa­tion tool to film stu­dios, pre­dicts a £605m box of­fice take for the UK and Ire­land this year.

That is less than half the £1.35bn taken in 2019.

Gower Street has also is­sued its pre­dicted chart for this year’s top 10 films, led by the lat­est James Bond out­ing No Time to Die, which was post­poned from April to Novem­ber.

Only two of the 10 – 1917 and Sonic the Hedge­hog – have al­ready had their cinema runs. Ac­tual ticket sales for the other eight films – No Time to Die, West

Side Story, Pixar an­i­ma­tion Soul, Tenet, Peter Rab­bit 2, Death on the Nile, Won­der Woman 1984 and Black Widow – re­main to be seen. Some sec­tors of the au­di­ence may re­main cau­tious about cinema-go­ing, but at least a strong slate awaits those who do ven­ture out once more.

Sev­eral of 2020’s strong­est-look­ing ti­tles have been pushed into 2021, in­clud­ing Min­ions: The Rise of Gru, Mar­vel’s The Eter­nals, Top Gun: Mav­er­ick and Fast & Fu­ri­ous 9.

In the­ory, these all give a big boost to next year but, equally, many strong ti­tles orig­i­nally set for 2021 have sim­i­larly been pushed back to 2022. Gower Street is yet to put 2021 into its crys­tal ball and much de­pends on how au­di­ences re­spond to Tenet.

How­ever, Robert Mitchell, the firm’s di­rec­tor of the­atri­cal in­sights, said: “We wouldn’t be sur­prised to see 2021 box of­fice down 20pc to 30pc on re­cent years as re­cov­ery con­tin­ues and un­cer­tain­ties re­main.”

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