The cinemas are struggling. Could video games free them?
In 2007, Charlie Brooker, who gained worldwide fame for writing the Incredible Black mirror series-explained on his cult British TV show Screen Erase that video game fans who discuss it in detail with people who love movies, TV or food are “automatically labeled a sad, spotted, nerd, geek virgin with all the cultural sensibilities of a spoon.”
Thankfully, things have come a long way in 14 years – if at all, it looks like the global movie industry is looking for a much needed injection of cash from those players on whom its traditional and hardcore audiences have spent years rolling their eyes.
Maybe it’s something to do with theaters being expected to lose $ 32 billion in 2020, while the video game industry has made record profits in those same months, thanks to you-know-what.
This month, the Cineworld movie chain – which recently avoided bankruptcy by signing a financing deal in exchange for 10% of the business – announced it was offering the option to rent screens for gaming slots. of two hours in 100 of its UK cinemas. Now gamers can enjoy their console and game of choice, and have an experience they just can’t get from the comfort of their own home.
Cineworld, which operates more than 9,000 screens in approximately 700 theaters in Europe, the United States and Israel, touts its facilities as COVID-safe, offering “state-of-the-art projection” and “sound high quality immersive ”. Considering the sales pitch, it might come as no surprise to hear that the company isn’t exactly offering this opportunity at a great price: bookings for up to 20 people cost between £ 119 and £ 260 ($ 169 to $ 379) depending on location, day and time slot. .
The price may seem high, but organizing an eight FIFA The cheapest rental rate tranche costs £ 15 ($ 21) per head – not particularly outrageous for a business model already known for often expensive ticket prices and large markups on snacks and drinks. (It’s worth pointing out that Cineworld offers an unrivaled gaming experience with a 90g bag of popcorn and a ‘pre-packaged drink’ combo for £ 4.95 per person – $ 7. At least Dick Turpin wore a mask. .)
Still, whichever way you look at it, it’s a smart move. The film industry has long been besieged by piracy, streaming services, and the increasingly short time between theatrical releases and DVD releases. The pandemic has further highlighted the virtues of patience and simply settling for smaller screens without decent audio. It will take a long time for things to get back to “normal”, especially when the looming threat of a “new normal” looms on the horizon that threatens to largely wipe out cinemas.
At the same time, video games are increasingly cinematic, even through sports and casual titles, and they continue to feel limited even on the best 55-inch 4K TVs running at 120 frames per second – those setups, which are still ridiculously expensive, may simply not match comfortable seating in a dark theater with surround sound, where the screen is double the size of your home.
For parent groups, happy college students, bachelorette parties and bored 35 year olds who miss their friends and need an excuse to put them all in the same room even if I end up paying for it all. the bill myself, Cineworld has every chance of starting a full-fledged global trend, building on what already offered in South Korea and on a smaller, more provisional scale by the Malco Theaters of Memphis.
While it’s good to think that these post-COVID desires to return to long-denied entertainment will be sustained long after that initial spike in excitement, it’s clear that cinemas need to look beyond their usual channel. Embracing an ever-growing gaming community is certainly a good start – although it might be priced a bit lower or offer increasingly shorter slots for passive and heavy sessions.
Besides, what could be funnier than the prospect of a group of young teens reaching their own final? FIFA tournament, only to reach the last ten minutes of a draw only for the lights to come on and the curtains to be drawn? I would definitely pay $ 7 for four handfuls of popcorn if I could see those reactions.