The average time spent viewing audiovisual entertainment in the UK home grew from four hours, 53 minutes in April 2019 to six hours and 25 minutes in April 2020 – a rise of 31% according to new research presented at the BFI London Film Festival by the BFI’s research and statistics unit on Thursday (October 15).
At an industry panel called Captive Audiences – in Lockdown and Beyond, the unit revealed insights into UK consumption of screen entertainment during and post-lockdown.
The highest growth was for viewing of streamer services, up 109% from 34 minutes per day in April 2019 to 71 minutes per day a year later. During the lockdown period, 3 million adults gained access to a streamer service for the first time.
Films took a larger share of the increased TV viewing time, as did news programmes, while viewing of sport declined rapidly during the lockdown period, and has not fully recovered. Films achieved a 10.9% share of TV viewing during lockdown, up from 7.8% for the equivalent period of 2019. Post-lockdown, films retained its share of viewing, edging back only slightly to 10.8%.
The BFI unit offered estimated global revenue for three key titles released digitally since the pandemic, via VOD in the case of Trolls World Tour ($100m digital revenue estimate) and Scoob! ($60-70m), and via Disney+ in the case of Mulan ($150m in transactions, not counting subscription revenue from new subscribers to the service).
At the UK and Ireland box office, a single film – Tenet – has provided 40% of takings since cinemas started to reopen in early July. Weekly takings surged with the release of Tenet, and declined in the four subsequent weeks. However, if Tenet’s takings are ignored, UK and Ireland box office achieved its highest post-lockdown level in the week commencing October 2.
In total box office, the UK and Ireland’s £305m to date is around 30% of 2018 and 2019 levels. Due to cinema closures and the delayed release of planned tentpole releases, the BFI unit forecasts that this percentage could slip to around 25% 0f 2018 and 2019 levels by year’s end, which would mean an annual total around £350m.
Post-lockdown, the percentage of UK and Ireland cinemas that reopened peaked at 80%. That number fell dramatically to just 56% for the latest weekend, as a result of the “de-opening” of Cineworld and Picturehouse, and the temporary closure of cinemas in Ireland.
Ireland, London, north-west England and east England were the areas achieving the highest rate of reopened cinemas, all peaking above 90% of the total. For the latest weekend, the pattern has shifted, with Northern Ireland and north west England the only two regions with more than 70% of cinemas open.
The team presented data on the demographic make-up of cinema audiences. Amongst cinemagoers who had visited the cinema in the last two months, while 34.5% was aged 16-34 for Q4 2019, this cohort rose to 58.8% of the audience for September 2020. In Q4 2019, 31.3% of the audience was age 45 or older; this proportion fell to just 7.8% in September 2020.
Post-lockdown, the average UK cinema ticket price has declined by 5% compared to the pre-lockdown period. This follows a 1.5% average ticket price decline in 2019, and a 3.6% decline in 2018; compounding these successive drops indicates a 9.8% average ticket price fall since the 2017 peak.
Asked to comment on the data, BFI research manager Paul McEvoy highlighted the paramount importance of cinema. “If you look at the top 50 films of the lockdown period [on television], they’re all films that were made successful in cinema,” he said, citing the Indiana Jones series and Bond titles. “We must keep in our minds that that’s the place where this immersive experience means that you will get the value that cascades down every other release window of the distribution chain.”