By Christof Papousek
Review: The past cinematic year has been marked by huge US blockbusters, which, in turn, have boosted global box-office earnings. There is, for all intents and purposes, one party that is primarily responsible for this success: Disney. Disney has celebrated a number of successes, including “Captain Marvel”, “Avengers: Endgame”, “The Lion King”, “Frozen 2”, and last but not least “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”, and the studio’s brand strategy has fully paid off. Production brands, such as Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, Pixar, Walt Disney, and the latest acquisition, 20th Century Fox, have been brought together under one roof. Film content is linked to production brands, and audiences know what to expect when Pixar, Lucasfilm, or Marvel Studios appear on film posters, which are now predominantly digitally presented via state-of-the-art signage systems. The film “Joker” by Warner Bros. also deserves to be mentioned as it broke all records in some markets, such as in Greece.
However, Disney’s commitment to the cinema, to distribution within the so-called cinema window, is much more important. It is only through success at the cinema that success can be achieved in downstream legal streaming distribution, Pay TV, free TV, and merchandising. The Disney+ streaming portal will expand the spectrum of film consumption, but without the disruptive approach that Netflix has brought to the industry. Netflix’s latest offering clearly demonstrates that masterpieces, such as Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman”, will not be box-office successes, as parallel releases via cinema and streaming will reduce the value of such films. Moreover, the enjoyment of watching films at home cannot be compared to the experience of watching them on the big screen, with its high-tech sound and state-of-the-art projection systems. This is different from online shopping, which lacks the shopping experience provided by brick-and-mortar retailers, but the enjoyment of the purchased item recurs time and again whenever it is used.
What does all of this mean? Feature films are primarily made for the cinema, and cinemas worldwide require content. Cinemas make a large contribution to the overall revenue of film distribution for the respective productions. Accordingly, cinemas will continue to generate footfall and make a significant contribution to visitor numbers in malls. As 2018 and 2019 clearly show, global film consumption has risen, and streaming offerings have not weakened the cinema industry.
Outlook: Films are creative works of art. Studios may not be able to produce films that are as successful as last year’s, but they will be able to do so on a regular basis! In 2020, Disney’s line-up will be less dominated by big blockbusters, but a host of interesting smaller films will be released. This will also provide space for other films, which, in turn, will enjoy more visibility in the cinemas and can, therefore, become great successes. However, major productions, which also serve as brands or are linked to production brands, will also be featured. “No Time to Die”, the upcoming James Bond film, promises to attract and thrill many viewers at Easter time! In summer, families will once again have the opportunity to enjoy watching their little yellow friends: Under its production brand Illumination, Universal is bringing “Minions” back to the cinema. The next sequel in the “Fast and Furious” series, which is due to fill movie theater auditoriums at the end of April, will also be very popular. In addition, superstar Tom Cruise is set to deliver even more action. “Top Gun: Maverick” will see him introduce a new story to the cinema, following the great 80s classic.
If cinema operators focus on technology, comfort, and design, as well as service and good marketing, the flow of visitors will never stop. As a result, the importance of shopping centers as consistent sources of footfall will remain the same. However, mall operators must ensure that “their” cinemas enjoy appropriate visibility. Digital signage should not begin in cinema foyers. It must be an integral part of the entire information and marketing presence of all malls. Info pylons should be illuminated in food courts, and digital screens should be positioned in passageways and service areas; this cannot be compared to normal advertising. The cinema and event program is an integral part of life at any mall. The film industry supplies content, continuously, and theaters and malls have to make the most out of their partnerships. If cinematic out-of-home-entertainment is successful, enthusiastic visitors will continue to flock in droves.