Senior audiences have been absent from cinemas because there haven’t been films for them to see and not because of the pandemic, a CinemaCon panel heard on Monday.
Jane Hastings, MD and CEO of Australian exhibitor EVT told attendees at the panel session ’Globally Speaking: A Look At The Global Marketplace’ that post-pandemic recovery was down to the number and quality of films.
“Our seniors audience simply hasn’t had the films to see and that’s why they’re not coming,” said Hastings, adding: “They’re a regular audience. From our research it’s not Covid behaviour; it’s that there haven’t been films for them to see.
“There’s not been a return of customers,” Hastings elaborated, “there’s been a return of films. The customers have always been there.” She added that family crowds too have been underserved, which is why many parents took their children to see global smash The Super Mario Bros. Movie twice during the recent school break.
Tony Chambers, EVP head of theatrical distribution at Disney, said, “We as studios and exhibition need to give the audience a reason to go. You can talk about the messaging “exclusively in theatres” and that’s fine, but we have to drive urgency to see it now, and we’ve got to ‘eventise’.”
The need to create the “must-see” factor, he said, was particularly critical with regard to smaller and medium-sized movies, which have been missing. “We as an industry need to support those movies to make sure we’re back up in terms of volume, but also to give audiences a choice,” he said.
The Disney executive cited its Searchlight Pictures’ acclaimed dark comedy Banshees Of Inisherin, which has grossed $38m internationally compared to $10m in the US.
“Maybe international audiences are more open to Banshees, but there’s something missing in terms of the offering in the US compared to what you get internationally. Internationally there is that curated experience [in cinemas].”
Chambers praised A24 for what it had achieved with Everything Everywhere All At Once and added, “If we don’t eventise these films producers will not be able to get them made.”
In terms of reaching out to audiences, Hastings said: “We have a very powerful direct-to-consumer link. We have the power to find those audiences directly and encourage those films to get made.”
Asked by an audience member for their views of sharing data, Chambers noted that Disney does so depending on territory, and pointed out that in some territories aggregators that serve as go-betweens, while some exhibitors have their own platforms. He added that Disney does not pay for data.
Hastings said EVT shares customer insights but not data. “It’s mutually beneficial to both sides to share those insights, but we monetise data.”
Earlier in the session Chambers offered a broad recap of international trends. German box office was tracking above 2018 and 2019; France and Latin America were around 10% behind pre-Covid box office; South Korea and Italy have been slower to rebound from Covid; and local films were prospering in Japan and China while Hollywood films were “not cutting through”.