Members of Metro Cinema and the Edmonton International Film Festival (EIFF) are confident that movie theatres and theatre culture are here to stay.
As restrictions for in-person screenings were lifted on Jun. 10, 2021, movie theatres are back open to the public, offering a slate of new movies for audiences to see in person. The last time theatres were open prior to June was in December of 2020.
Dan Smith, director of Edmonton’s Metro Cinema, believes the theatre-going experience isn’t going anywhere. Smith says audiences are aching to come back to see a movie in the theatre.
“I really do think that there’s an added value to going to a theatre and having that community experience,” Smith said. “Talking to people about the film … the smell of popcorn, the way a film looks, how it was intended on a giant screen, and sounds the way it’s supposed to with big sound, I think the experience is more enriching.”
Kerrie Long, the recently retired producer of EIFF, agrees and feels the theatre experience is still desirable to audiences.
“I believe that audiences will be hungry to go back into the movie theatre and have that experience of seeing films with strangers and talking about them afterwards,” explains Long.
During the pandemic, the American Movie chain AMC escaped bankruptcy and was a front-runner in the meme stock race. On the Canadian side, Cineplex has been steadily gaining its ground back from a financial hit in the summer of 2020.
With streaming services such as Disney+, Crave, and Netflix being the go-to for moviegoing during the pandemic, the question of theatre viability has been highly debated. With Cineplex theatre tickets costing nearly $15 for a standard ticket and popcorn combos for two around another $20 at the cheapest, staying at home to stream a movie is the more financially viable option.
As of Oct. 2, 2021, Disney + has topped 118.1 subscribers worldwide through the help of original flagship titles like The Mandalorian, WandaVision, and Loki. On the Canadian side, Bell Media’s Crave reached 2.9 million subscribers in April, offering Canadians limited access to HBO Max originals such as Zack Snyder’s Justice League, The Flight Attendant, and Friends: The Reunion.
However, as successful as these streaming services are, both Metro and EIFF agree that audience and communal engagement are key factors in theatre sustainability.
“There’s a community aspect to enjoying some of these experiences, and I hope that people recognize that what we see is kind of a resurgence of that theatre film experience,” explains Smith.
“Will it go in that direction? It’s hard to say. Where will the industry be going after they’ve invested so much in video on demand and streaming? I don’t know. But I like to think that those market forces will be outweighed by the sort of like grassroots forces of people just wanting to go out and enjoy these things with other people.”
“Being in the theatre with a whole bunch of strangers and experiencing a film for the first time together, that can’t be replicated at home,” agrees Long.
“Together, I really believe that the future is bright for movies and cinemas.”
On Aug. 7, 2021, Cineplex launched its CineClub subscription with hopes of getting fans back in the theatre. For $9.99 subscribers, receive a free movie ticket per month along with cheaper member-priced tickets and a 20 per cent discount on concession items.
Landmark Cinemas (Cineplex’s multiplex rival owned by the Belgian cinema chain, Kinepolis) launched their own subscription service, Landmark Extras, on Aug 10, 2021. Unlike CineClub, Landmark Extras provides a three-tiered subscription ranging from free, $20 per year, and $9.99 per month, with each tier showcasing different perks.
Metro Cinema also offers various film passes ranging from $30 to $300 with multiple benefits included. For the more devoted fans of Metro Cinema, Metro’s $300 Silver Screen Pass grants admission into more than 800 films screened at Metro, free popcorn on the first of every month, and membership into the Metro Cinema Society where members can “help shape the future of Metro,” according to Metro’s website. Due to an increase in COVID cases in the province and a staff member testing positive on Dec. 23, 2021, Metro announced a temporary closure till Jan. 09, 2022.
According to Variety, the global cinema box office is set to recover from pandemic woes thanks to large theatre turnouts following big event movies like F9: The Fast Saga, No Time to Die, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Of particular note is Spider-Man: No Way Home, which netted $253 million in ticket sales during its domestic weekend debut and had the third-best opening in box office history, regardless of the pandemic. Though theatres are still down 70 per cent from pre-pandemic profits, audiences venturing out back to movie theatres is apparent.
Movie-goers can still continue to purchase in-person tickets to Cineplex and Landmark theatres. Masking restrictions and proof of vaccination measures continue to be in place.
Metro Cinema is located near the University of Alberta, just off Whyte Avenue (8712 109 St NW). The full slate of Metro’s showtimes can be found at www.metrocinema.org or on their social media.
EIFF runs every year from Oct. 1 through 10 at Landmark Cinemas 9, located in City Centre Mall. You can follow EIFF on their social media accounts for updates and announcements about the festival.