Irish Cinema targeting blockbuster 2021 to bounce back from Covid woes

Irish Cinema Targeting Blockbuster 2021 To Bounce Back From Covid Woes Irish Cinema Targeting Blockbuster 2021 To Bounce Back From Covid Woes
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James Cox

Cinema has always been a huge aspect of Irish life and a favoured national pastime, but like plenty of other businesses, it has struggled greatly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

So how does the future of Irish cinema look?

While trading is hugely challenging at the moment, industry experts have a positive outlook for the future of Irish cinema, especially with a Covid-19 vaccine on the horizon.

Mark Anderson, director of the Omniplex Group - which includes 18 Irish cinemas - told that one of the main challenges has been a lack of blockbuster releases.

However, he cited the release of Wonder Woman 1984 on December 16th as a positive.


While streaming is constantly talked about as a rival, and even threat to the existence, of traditional cinema, Mr Anderson pointed out that a normal year has roughly 25 blockbuster releases and studios have decided to postpone the release of around 20 for a traditional cinema release in 2021.


“Don't forget, since the pandemic hit us you could count on one hand the number of blockbuster movies that have been released. There's normally 25-30 blockbusters released in a year so the number of delayed releases is into the high 20s.

“We've lost a handful to streaming services. The value of a theatrical release hasn't been lost on our partners in distribution. That's evidenced in the fact that they haven't pulled every movie off the film slate and put it on streaming, they have been prepared to wait and put those 25-30 films into 2021. It's going to be a year packed with blockbusters in cinemas.”

Co-founder of Irish film distribution company Break Out Pictures Robert McCann Finn also pointed out the fact that films that hope to go on to have success on streaming platforms still rely heavily on a cinema release.

Mr McCann Finn told “Cinema is so important. There's no point in going to Netflix and saying, 'we have this film by a first-time Irish director'. They hear that a million times a day from different directors around the world. If you're going to them with a trailer, branding, when it's already been in cinemas and done well it gives Netflix, Amazon, whoever, an idea and encourages them to take a look.”


He pointed to the huge talent in the Irish film industry as a reason to be optimistic about the cinema industry.

“You have to adapt and having fantastic Irish distribution companies and film has been a real positive during the last few months.

“Irish cinemas have been flexible with time frames and worked with distribution companies to reach audiences.

“Ireland has the highest screen density in nearly the whole world. Cinema has always been such a great social pastime for Irish people. With the weather we get over here it's sometimes a case of the pub or the cinema!

“For example there's a cinema in Monaghan, the population is only a few thousand people, you wouldn't see that in most countries.

“The pandemic has reaffirmed how important it is to have a strong Irish exhibition sector and a strong Irish film sector. It's so important to people's mental health, to get those few hours away to escape from all the doom and gloom.”

Mr Anderson also spoke about the relationship Irish people have with cinema.

“Irish people have an affinity with that communal experience of going to the cinema, that's not going to change. The battle that cinema has globally is to get back to that position where all big films have to debut in movie theatres around the world first.


“In 2021, when cinema starts to produce the revenue that studios and distributors know that cinema can produce, then I don't believe that streaming will be as much of a hot topic as it is now where films have to go to streaming to generate revenue.”

Mr McCann Finn pointed to the Irish-produced movies that have succeeded this year despite the pandemic.

He also had high hopes for a documentary-film about Phil Lynott that was set to be released on St Stephen's Day.

However, this will now have to be postponed amid new Level 5 restrictions that will see cinemas close again on Christmas Eve.

“It's such an exciting time for Irish filmmakers. During lockdown we had Broken Law, Paddy Slattery's first feature, after cinema that's been picked up by Netflix UK and Ireland along with RTÉ. That would be impossible without a cinema release, when they see the trailer, the film, the artwork, it gives the film the attention.

“On December 26th we have the Phil Lynott documentary, directed by Emer Reynolds. It's amazing for Ireland to have this type of talent.

“It's strange, traditionally Stephen's Day is one of the biggest days for releasing a film, I think it's the only release in Ireland this year which is kind of rock and roll, I think Phil himself would have been delighted to be the only release on Stephen's Day.”


Both Mr McCann Finn and Mr Anderson pointed to the collaboration between film producers, distributors and cinemas operators as they highlighted the safety of cinema with the Department of Arts and Culture.

This led to the Government allowing cinemas to remain open in Level 3.

Mr Anderson highlighted the fact that there hasn't been a single Covid outbreak attributed to cinema globally.

“The empirical and scientific evidence was listened to and that's what we wanted, there hasn't been one case of Covid transmission linked to cinemas and that's including in places like South Korea where they never closed.

“Cinema is one of the safest indoor pursuits you can engage in, generally there's no talking which also reduces the risk. People are facing the same direction, no face-to-face interaction, people are stationary and socially distanced so all of these factors dramatically reduce the risk. There's always going to be risk associated with anything but certainly cinema can be considered a very safe pursuit.”

The days of the pick and mix are probably gone but that's a small sacrifice to make to have cinemas open again!

Mr McCann Finn said: “The data is fairly incredible, there hasn't been one case linked to cinema worldwide.


“99 per cent of cinemas are really well ventilated and most in Ireland are relatively new buildings.

“The days of the pick and mix are probably gone but that's a small sacrifice to make to have cinemas open again!”

According to the Break Out Pictures director, the future of Irish production is in safe hands with the level of talent in the country, while Mr Anderson is confident of a 'blockbuster 2021' as the Covid vaccine roll-out gathers momentum and studios start to drop big films on the market as we approach the summer.

Film schedule

“April onwards is when a lot of these movies have been stacked up for. A lot of studios have been taking advice form virologists. When vaccines start to take an effect on restrictions, the film release schedule suggests that's when they're putting their money on.

“When cinema does come back, there is a percentage of the population out there that aren't comfortable coming back, it's up to us to continually convey the safety that cinema inherently has. It's such a big area, it's socially distanced, there's ventilation in each of the auditoriums, there's official guidance. I hope this all allays some concerns for cinema lovers to come back in their droves.”




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