There have been many occasions in cinema history when the medium was supposedly on its way out. The growth of television viewing in the 1950s and the home video boom of the 1980s did pose a threat to film’s dominance, but the industry has always reinvented itself and survived. Today it is dealing with another perceived threat in the form of streaming, a hot topic that dominated the ISE 2020 Digital Cinema Summit (DCS).

Opening the conference with the keynote A Market Overview: Cinema in the Experiential Economy, David Hancock, Director of Research for Cinema and Home Entertainment at Informa Tech and President of the European Digital Cinema Forum, commented that, periodically, the film exhibition market has had to justify its existence. “This is one of those periods,” he said. “There is a need to reposition again and reconnect with the audience.”

According to figures from IHS Markit (now part of Informa Tech), online video has triggered an overall increase in the video subscription market. But, at the same time, cinema has seen increased attendance, although that does vary from territory to territory. The number of cinema sites in the UK has gone up to just under 800 in 2018, a vast improvement on the dip to around 745 in 2014. Hancock explained that this was not just the ‘Big Three’ (Vue, Odeon, Cineworld) but also Everyman, Picturehouse and The Light, plus smaller operators. “The number of multiplexes in the UK has gone down but there are more screens,” he said. “This includes boutique and art house cinemas.”

In the US the studios have managed to reverse the decline in their market share. Part of this, Hancock observed, was due to the popularity of movie franchises, although this trend has dropped slightly since its 2017 peak. Technology and improved cinema design have also played a part in the overall health of the market. This includes Premium Large Format (PLF) presentation, better seats and service and experiential experiences such as 4D and IMS (immersive motion seating).

Hancock also downplayed “the cinema is threatened/dying headlines” by sharing figures that show subscribers to Netflix and Amazon Prime are also keen cinemagoers. “The real enemies of cinema are those that don’t watch either Netflix or Amazon,” he said. “The people who do have streaming services like watching content and probably do go to the cinema. And the global cinema industry is resilient and strong. It is here to stay.”

Digital Cinema Summit took place on 12 February 2020 at the Hotel Okura Amsterdam. Please find the image gallery here. See you next year at Integrated Systems Europe 2021!