The UK box office has enjoyed its best year since the early 1970s. Despite video on demand services like Netflix disrupting the market alongside conventional home video on DVD and Blu-ray, audiences have flocked to the big screen in what is cinema’s biggest year in decades.
The cinema is alive and well. Despite competition from big spending Netflix, the numbers of people in the UK watching movies on the big screen in 2018 is at its highest since the early 1970s.
With some 176 million cinema attendees in 2018, not since 1971, when The French Connection, Diamonds are Forever and Fiddler on the Roof were the big box office draws, has the industry seen so many ticket sales.
When the final ticket stubs are counted it is expected that British cinemagoers will have attended 176m times this year, a number not seen since 1971 when the hits included Diamonds are Forever, French Connection, Dirty Harry and Fiddler on the Roof.
And while the big money-makers remain Hollywood’s tentpole releases – dominated by Marvel’s superheroes – independent cinema has benefited from audiences eager for the big screen experience with films from Paul Thomas Anderson, Lynne Ramsay, Debra Granik and Lucrecia Martel doing well.
In fact, Palme d’Or winner, the complex, challenging drama Shoplifters about an extended family relying on stealing to alleviate a poverty-stricken existence performed exceptionally well at the box office.
The UK attendance rate – up by around 6% on 2017 – is being attributed to a number of factors. There’s the fact that while prices continue to go up, the cinema is still a competitively priced alternative to such activities as visiting the theatre or going to a Premier League football match.
Investment by big cinema chains such as Cineworld and its 270-degree viewing experience is making the big screen attractive over home viewing as is the rise of boutique operators such as Everyman with their luxury seating and food and drink options.
There’s also been a more diverse film slate – from musicals to superhero to family animation – which has had a positive impact on ticket sales. This upwards trend is being witnessed in the United States as well.
Cinema can offer a combination of film and socialising says Crispin Lilly, the chief executive of Everyman, which is another reason why it’s able to stand out over the easy accessibility of Netflix. Everyman has embraced this idea with plush seating, food, drink and a bar, and has nearly tripled its number of venues since 2013.
“Of course there is competition out there – from pubs and bars to home entertainment. People want value for money but they also want value for time,” noted Lilly. “Offering value for money is a given but offering value for people’s time is something you really have to work to deliver.
“There are films people choose to see on the big screen rather than at home. However, with investment in the experience it is also removing the risk of relying on just the film being good. Cinema is alive and well.”