log in

Odeon to reopen most cinemas in UK despite film shortage

The Guardian - Tue May 4 15:30

Odeon is to reopen the vast majority of its UK cinemas on 17 May, but film fans will initially find new Hollywood blockbusters in short supply as the industry gets back on its feet after a gruelling series of pandemic lockdowns.

The UK’s biggest cinema chain, which is sweetening its £9.99 monthly all-you-watch subscription scheme to get punters back indoors as summer nears, will welcome back film fans to most of the 112 sites it operates across the UK.

Cinemas in Northern Ireland are due to reopen a week later on 24 May. Cineworld and Vue, the second and third biggest UK operators, are also set to reopen their cinemas, as are the Curzon and Everyman chains.

After being financially battered by the pandemic, cinema owners are desperate to get fans back – Cineworld reported a record $3bn (£2.2bn) loss for last year – but it will take time for the Hollywood film pipeline to get back to full flow.

On 17 May, fans will be greeted by films including the Oscar winners Sound of Metal, Nomadland and Minari, all of which are already available on streaming platforms, as well as the horror film Spiral: From The Book of Saw and Warner Bros’ Those Who Wish Me Dead.

The first big film release, and test of the appetite for the big-screen experience, will be Peter Rabbit 2, voiced by stars including James Corden and Margot Robbie, which opens on 21 May.

“Cinema-going will inevitably initially be at much lower levels, the question is what level will they return to,” says Richard Broughton, an analyst at Ampere.

Guardian business email sign-up

Film fans will have to get used to an entirely new experience including relatively sparsely filled screenings to adhere to social distancing rules, staggered show times to reduce queues, no cash payments and only pre-packaged food and drink.

However, having survived last year, when there was the lowest number of UK admissions on record, fuelling an 80% slump in box office revenues, cinema-owners remain convinced that movie-going will bounce back.

Cineworld has told investors it expects an almost immediate revival, with admissions climbing to 60% of 2019 levels in May and rising to 90% by the end of the year.

As the year rolls on cinemas will host increasing numbers of all-important Hollywood premieres, as studios that experimented with straight-to-streaming releases during lockdown return to the big screen.

Fans can look forward to the likes of James Bond: No Time to Die, Marvel’s Black Widow, Top Gun: Maverick and Fast & The Furious 9.

“The key here is that most movies have been delayed and are still waiting for a cinema release,” said David Hancock, a film analyst at Omdia. “We have only seen a few pushed to streaming, mainly because it has taken cinema a long time to properly reopen. Theatrical release is still the best way to create value and make money for feature films, especially the blockbusters.”