Hollywood studios are planning a UK marketing blitz of more than Â£ 250million to promote the return of blockbusters to the big screen over the next 18 months, as the much-delayed premiere of James Bond: No Time to Die gives to the industry the confidence to chart a post-pandemic boom of new releases.
With cinemas forced to close for months since the coronavirus hit in February last year and moviegoers showing reluctance to return in droves when they were able to open, plans to release at least 160 films have been suspended.
Now, with theaters mostly returned to normal operations – more than four-fifths of the world are now allowed to open, according to research firm Omdia – the film stalemate will mean three years of releases will hit theaters over the next 18 months.
While a number of major films have had their big screen premieres over the summer, such as Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and F9, the three-time delayed premiere of Daniel Craig’s latest outing as Bond is largely considered the symbolic end of the output drought.
“A quarter of a billion pounds of [promotional] media [spend] will ensure that no one ignores the video is back in the game, âsaid Kim Bayley, chief executive of the Entertainment Retailers Association, which compiled the figure following a briefing with BASE, the British Association for Screen Entertainment.
âThis level of marketing support is off the scale. After 18 months in which the video industry was deprived of releases due to the cinema blackout, it is a spectacular comeback. “
Omdia estimates that three-quarters of films whose release date has been put on ice waited for either a full-theatrical premiere or a traditional cinema launch in addition to being launched on a streaming service.
Blockbusters are set to hit screens over the next 18 months, including Jurassic World: Dominion, Minions: The Rise of Gru, The Matrix 4: Resurrections, and Downton Abbey: A New Era.
Viewing and streaming of digital video increased as British families were stranded at home during the lockdown, with revenues up 37% to Â£ 2.9bn in 2020. DVD sales, however and Blu-ray, which rely on the new releases, fell a quarter-year to Â£ 356million.
âOur business has been very resilient during the pandemic,â said Paul Newton, advertising manager at Sky Store, the broadcaster’s pay-per-view service. âWe have all done a great job of promoting and re-promoting [back] catalog, but new versions remain the main driver.
Despite promising signs of a recovery, it will take several years for annual ticket sales to return to pre-pandemic levels. While pre-Covid box office levels are expected to return by the middle of next summer, it will be until 2023 for annual revenues to hit the Â£ 1.25 billion mark in 2019, according to Omdia.