Down But Not Out: What’s Going On With British Cinemas?

Ed Angeli

“The cinema is really built for the big screen and big sound, so that a person can go into another world and have an experience.” — David Lynch

Exactly what everyone signs up to the cinema for – an experience. The experience of going to the pictures, settling into two hours worth of entertainment which lets you escape reality in a dark room.

We all go through exactly the same routine: try and sneak in a load of snacks, yet still moan/buy a box of popcorn upon entry, oh yeah, and then do some more moaning at the amount of ads you have to watch before the film starts; nevermind, it’s still the experience we love and sign up for.

However, the general consensus is that the cinema is becoming a dying art. With the availability of Sky, Netflix and general streaming online, there has been a huge change from people going to the cinema, or buying DVDs – technology/our pure laziness has killed off friends of the cinema like Blockbuster – RIP 2k10.

With consumer spending at £2.2billion in 2009 on DVDs, that figure has dropped to £0.9billion last year as the continual decline of DVD sales looks set to remain.

Digital streaming online has, naturally, done the reverse; with consumer spending at £0.2billion in 2009, this has gradually risen to £1.3billion with viewers more inclined to use their laptops and tablets to stream films rather than go out and buy a physical copy – lazy millennials.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the blockbuster world. Yes, cinema admissions have dramatically fallen in the last 60 years. At peak years, the cinema world saw 1,100.80million admissions to the pictures in 1956 – the cinema world was booming.

Yet it’s rapid decline over the next 30 years saw this ‘experience’ slowly become a non-experience; admissions dropped to 75.5million by 1986 as the cinema industry looked set to die a slow death.

Despite the rapid decline, the cinema industry hasn’t continued its deterioration. Unlike DVD sales, the cinema world has gradually repaired itself as it looks to maintain its relevance in the entertainment world.

Since the dark days of the ’80s, admissions in the UK are up to 168.3million – the highest since 1972; the cinema world is trying to mend itself.

Although the peak days are ever unlikely to return to 1000s of millions going to the cinema in the ’50s, the cinema’s fight against the digitalised world we’re becoming more and more gripped by does not look like shutting off one of the great traditions of going to the pictures.

The ‘experience’ is one which can’t be rivaled by anything; no matter how cheap it is to stream a film online, there’s nothing like going to the flicks.

Long live the cinema.