Survey: U.K. Audiences Eager to Return to the Big Screen

Cinema First, the industry body charged with promotion of U.K. cinemagoing, has released the findings of a survey on audience willingness to return to the movies—providing some hopeful statistics in the weeks running up to the reopening of indoor movie theaters in the U.K.

Carried out by research agency MetrixLab and commissioned by the Film Distributors’ Association—the trade body representing UK cinemas and, with the UK Cinema Association (UKCA), one of Cinema First’s core constituents—the survey showed that 40 percent of respondents are planning to see a movie in a theater in the first few weeks after reopening. An additional 36 percent say they will return to the cinema within the first couple of months.

U.K. cinemas were ordered to close on March 20, 2020 and remained so until the summer, with cinemas in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales all having separate timelines for reopening contingent on local regulations and Covid numbers. Throughout autumn and winter, as case numbers rose, cinemas across the U.K. closed for the second time. According to data provided by UNIC, approximately 20 percent of cinemas in the U.K. were open at the end of 2020, with additional lockdowns coming into effect in January across the country. The reopening of cinemas across the U.K. is expected to follow a similar regional pattern, with indoor cinemas in England and Scotland allowed to open as soon as May 17. 

According to the MetrixLab survey, 93 percent of moviegoers who went to the cinema during the mid-2020 months before the second lockdown had an “overwhelmingly positive” experience, while 99 percent were satisfied by the health and safety measures taken by the cinema. The UKCA cited the safety of cinemas as part of the reason for objecting to any requirement that moviegoers show so-called “Covid passports”—proving that they have been vaccinated—in order to see a film in a theater once they reopen. Argued the UKCA in a statement last week: “[Requiring a Covid passport] would introduce a significant barrier between the sector and its customers at a time when members are trying to rebuild a business which has over the last 12 months experienced a massive financial impact, losing some £2 billion in income.”

With cinemas re-opening in May, the U.K. exhibition industry can continue the process of recovery, with Cinema First citing the upcoming U.K. releases of Nomadland, Peter Rabbit 2, A Quiet Place Part II, The Father, Cruella, F9, In the Heights, Top Gun: Maverick, Dune, and No Time to Die. Two-thirds of survey respondents said that cinema is an experience that can’t be recreated at home, while 59 percent of respondents cited cinemagoing as their most missed out-of-home activity.

Iain Jacob, chair of Cinema First, said of the findings:

“After a long period of lockdown, it’s great to see that such a large proportion of the public can’t wait to come back to the cinema. Our research has confirmed what we had hoped: after being at home on lockdown since December we are all keen to escape to the cinema to experience the magic that only comes from watching a film on the big screen. Cinemas across the UK are thrilled to be opening their doors again and safely welcoming back film fans and resuming the thriving culture of cinemagoing.”

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