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After what has felt like an eternity away from the big screen, we can finally rejoice as cinemas reopen. Just imagine it now: the warmth of the popcorn clutched against your chest as you swing open the theatre doors, make your way across the questionably-patterned carpet, before rounding the corner to be met with the wall of chairs, bathed in the sofa glow of the screen - the audience buzzing with anticipation as they prepare to lose themselves in a movie.

That’s what we’ve been craving. 

The first lockdown, and the disappointing sequels that followed, only strengthened our affinity for at-home viewing. The welcome pockets of escapism that entertainment afforded us was necessary, and we’re certain that audiences and their relationship with home ent will continue to be stronger than ever. But, like us, we know that cinephiles up and down the country will be happy to satisfy their need for a shared big screen experience. 

“Seeing a film at the cinema is an event,” says Rich, OC’s Commercial Director, and someone who’s been known to refer to the cinema as his temple. “The big screen, bigger sound and communal experience can make an average film better, and a great film even greater. I have strong memories of very run-of the-mill films that, on my TV, I would have soon forgotten. But I shared that disappointing film with everyone else. So I guess it’s the audience experience that I miss the most.”

Senior Account Manager, Michelle has “really missed being able to escape and get lost in the film - you don’t have your phone or other things at home to distract you. It was always something me and my fiancé would do together and look forward to pretty much weekly.”

In recent years, cinemas have felt the ever-increasing pressure of streaming services turning the heads of film-lovers - promising them entertainment in the comfort of their own homes, a wealth of catalogue and original content, and a monthly subscription fee that is often cheaper than a single, adult cinema ticket. 

So, when cinemas were forced to close their doors, and the global population was told to stay behind theirs, it’s no wonder video streaming rocketed - by a hefty 71% compared to 2019. With movies being the most in-demand type of content during the pandemic, studios had to deliver, and as a result many theatrical windows were done away with, as tentpole titles went straight to PVOD. One of the first to do so was Universal Pictures, who bravely dipped a brightly-coloured, animated toe into the uncertain waters of straight-to-streaming, when their family flick, Trolls: World Tour, bypassed the big screen, and was released direct to digital. With the title going on to make more in three weeks of digital release than its 2016 predecessor raked in during five months in cinemas, we’d call that a hair-raising success.

Home entertainment has been the saviour of sanity and a collective comforter during a tumultuous year. And while we’re going to continue filling up on film and tearing through TV series from our sofas, we’re longing for the big sound, wall-to-wall screen, crystal-clear visuals and atmosphere that comes from a room full of people, all there for one common purpose.

Tom, OC’s Head of Creative says, “As much as I have enjoyed digital premieres and big-budget streaming content from the comfort of my own home, it has only made me long for the shared experience of cinema more.” 

Even the youngest members of the OC crew are eagerly awaiting the social outing of going to the cinema. “When I told my 7 year-old daughter we were going to go to the cinema to see Peter Rabbit 2, her face absolutely lit up,” says CEO & Founder, Alex. “She recognises it as a special activity. Despite all the content that our kids have access to, it was really lovely to see the sheer joy and excitement at the thought of going. I definitely gave in and promised, popcorn, hotdogs, pick ‘n’ mix… the whole package.”

It’s the sense of occasion and the shared experience of cinema that undoubtedly lends itself to big action, and family fun. Our team called out Soul, Love and Monsters, The Mitchells Vs The Machines, Mulan and Zack Synder’s Justice League as all being titles they wish they’d seen in movie theatres.

For Michelle, there are a few genres that truly flourish on the big screen, “Action and horror films are the best at the cinema, you just can’t beat that experience!” “Perhaps audiences will only go to the cinema for certain types of films that they deem worth the extra money,” wonders Dean, our Creative Designer.

But it’s not just new epic blockbusters that our team wants to see back in cinemas… It’s the old epic blockbusters too. “With catalogue titles and nostalgia being a big part of the past year, I predict mainstream cinemas may feature more classic films on the big screen to offer that shared experience of familiar favourites,” says Tom. “I’m an advocate for new, fresh, exciting films,” Rich adds. “But if you’ve not seen Die Hard or Back to the Future in a full cinema of fans, you’ve not lived!”

That need for nostalgia not only fuelled our viewing habits during lockdown, but also influenced the success of drive-in movies - the viewing experience loaded with retro charm, and that irresistible zeitgeist factor. Our team hopes they’re here to stay. “The reintroduction of drive-in cinemas across the UK at amazing locations has been a positive change in cinema over the last year,” states Emma, OC’s Client Services Director. “It’s been great to actually get out of the house and see a classic film on a big screen... although I may need to invest in a bigger car!”

Our rekindled love of the drive-in only adds weight to our core belief: that the strength of the industry as a whole comes from the diversity of viewing opportunities. From sofas to cinemas, drive-ins to immersive experiences, audiences can tailor the way they consume entertainment. Whether their choices are dictated by budget, mood, or even the impact of a global pandemic, the ability to access content through various distribution channels means that film can always provide comfort, escapism and an experience. It’s this variety that we hope will allow home ent and theatrical to have a rewarding and harmonious balance.  

As a team of fanatics, we’ll be flocking to theatres, but if cinemas want to entice audiences to leave their homes, they have to conjure the magic of the movies, and ensure the spirits of customers aren’t dampened by anti-bac spray. We’re sure a combination of consumers with cabin fever, the longing for the experience, and the stellar release slate will be filling the seats in no time. We’ve already got our tickets for…

We’ll leave you with this rallying cry from Rich, championing the pilgrimage to the popcorn stand once more. “A Friday night out, catching a big release will remind people of cinema's importance in our lives and our escape from mundanity. We’re ready to recapture the feeling of having our minds blown again.”

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