VOICES OF THE FUTURE: Pandemic could change UK film industry irreversibly

If I were to count the endless hours of streaming during lockdown, the result would be too embarrassing to publish.
Cinema-goers should support independent picture houses like Hyde Park. Picture: Tony JohnsonCinema-goers should support independent picture houses like Hyde Park. Picture: Tony Johnson
Cinema-goers should support independent picture houses like Hyde Park. Picture: Tony Johnson

It would, however, be a familiar figure for many of us trapped indoors with little more to do than mindlessly scroll through Netflix.

What this has shown, is that nothing compares to the collective experience of seeing films in cinemas.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Without swift action, the pandemic could change the UK film industry irreversibly.

As Covid-19 hit the UK, cinemas were closed from March to July. Just as they got back on their feet, they were forced to close again in November, and many in tier three areas, like Leeds, still cannot reopen.

The impact of this has left many cinemas chains in economic freefall, with Cineworld and Picturehouse already having to close their theatres.

As the only alternative, millions have had to resort to platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. The streaming market is currently so much more economically viable than theatrical release, that titan studio Warner Bros have announced its full 2021 roster will be co-released in theatres and on streaming site HBO Max.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The decision was met with outrage from many directors, who said it did not take into account the effect on cinemas and filmmakers.

It is sad to think that streaming may replace the cinema experience. I saw my first film, and indeed many more, in my local Cineworld in Castleford, which has remained closed indefinitely since October.

The film experiences that have left a lasting impression on me have been in cinemas; the anticipation of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at midnight, the heartbreak of Moonlight.

Just two days before Leeds cinemas closed for the second lockdown, I was glad to see my own discomfort at the tension of St Maud reflected by fellow cinemagoers.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

An even more heart-breaking casualty of the pandemic would be the closure of smaller, independent cinemas.

In October, there were welcome reports of some independent cinemas seeing business boom, as smaller venues that depended less on delayed blockbusters flourished.

But for cinemas in West Yorkshire that have been shut longer than other parts of the country, the cracks may start to show.

The Hiding in Plain Sight project highlighted the cinemas Leeds has loved and lost.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

We cannot condemn theatres like Cottage Road to the same fate. The Hyde Park Picture House will benefit from the Culture Recovery Fund to help it through the effects of the pandemic, but other venues will not be so lucky.

Leeds is a thriving city of culture; failing to support cinemas through this crisis would be an incredible loss. Cinemas are working hard to make sure people can visit them safely.

Don’t condemn me to a life of tepid Netflix rom-coms on my tiny laptop. When they reopen, support local cinemas.