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The best seat in media is back

01 Sep 2020  |  Karen Stacey 
The best seat in media is back

As the UK public begins to head back into schools and offices, DCM's Karen Stacey takes out her red pen and writes up cinema's school report for the year 2020/21

It’s been six months since the UK went into lockdown, cinemas closed their doors and “normal” life as we knew it changed forever. Since restrictions on daily life have started to ease, the UK public has started to get back to the things they love.

The government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme has boosted the hospitality industry, with 64m discounted meals ordered during the first three weeks of the scheme and, in the cinema industry, audiences are returning! Both of these leisure activities were the most missed during lockdown because we love these shared experiences. They are also key drivers once people start to venture out again in building confidence that we can safely be together outside the home, which is what we’ve missed the most.

Being back together in the office, which we’re all now starting to work towards, is another important milestone. We’ve really missed being together and although I’ve loved seeing my family more, seeing colleagues and customers in real life has made a huge difference.

It’s also time this week for the return to school – another key marker in terms of building consumer confidence. So, as my daughter heads back to start sixth form, I’ve made Back to School my theme, recording cinema’s story for 2020/2021 in the form of a school report…


Cinema’s 2020/21 School Report

Top subject: Maths - 6

Christopher Nolan’s latest action-epic, Tenet, is the first big blockbuster to debut on the big screen post-lockdown and, after its opening weekend, it has taken an impressive £5.4m at the UK box office and $50m globally.

Considering not all cinemas are yet open in the UK and taking into account social distancing measures that are in place, this marks a huge milestone in terms of cinema’s recovery.

Creativity - 9

Tenet is just the start. Studios have been shifting the film slate constantly this year due to the pandemic, highlighting that cinema will remain the favoured launch viewing medium for studios.

For the rest of the year we can look forward to the new Bond film No Time to Die, Wonder Woman 1984, Black Widow, Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, Dune and West Side Story.

And in 2021 the slate is packed with blockbusters, particularly strong for 16-34s and family audiences, including: Jurassic World: Dominion, Top Gun: Maverick, Minions: The Rise of Gru, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3 and the next Spider-Man.

Attendance - 7

At the end of 2019, cinema admissions were at their highest numbers since the 1970s and as we entered the new decade, cinema was predicted by WARC to be the fastest growing advertising medium. However in March, when the nation found itself in lockdown and cinemas had to close their doors, the cinema advertising sector was one of the hardest hit.

But we are back with gusto. Since cinemas reopened in July attendance has been slow but steady, with people returning to watch classic films on the big screen, as well as a handful of new titles. Since Tenet’s release on 26 August we have hit another level, with DCM admissions crossing the half a million mark in a week, proving that people still have an appetite for watching new content on the big screen. We are confident following this performance that audience figures will get back to 2019 levels in the coming months.

What will remain unique to cinema is that young people will drive this return to growth. Attendance to date has shown that any drop-off is likely to be from an older audience. Cinema’s ability to engage the hard-to-reach young audiences that have flocked to ad-less streaming sites during lockdown will be even more relevant.

Team work - 8

After months of furlough, the whole DCM team returns to work this week (1 September). Our superstar cast is back to inspire the industry once again, putting cinema at the forefront of agency minds and reminding them of the importance of cinema on AV plans and why we have the best seat in media.

As a company, like most others, we have embraced flexible working and transformed our office to allow for social distancing. We are creating new environments that allow our team members to connect with customers to deliver against their existing needs, all while maintaining a first-class service.

Star player - 10

Last week Tom Cruise made a secret trip to watch Tenet among unknowing fans at the BFI Imax in London. Documenting the experience, he shows audiences what it’s like to get back to cinema after so long and with new safety measures in place, reminding audiences why the cinema is so great.

On his experience, he comments: “Big Movie. Big Screen. Loved it.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Let’s all be a bit more Tom Cruise.

Motto for the future – The Best Seat In Media is Back

At DCM our mantra is "Always Looking Forward" - and looking forward to Q4 and 2021, I believe that what we know to be ‘the best seat in media’ will get even better.

It may have been empty for a few months but I believe cinema will quickly get back to delivering strong audiences, especially those young hard-to-reach groups, while continuing to showcase the very best content on the very best screen.


Karen Stacey is CEO at Digital Cinema Media

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