The rise of the cosy night in – is leaving the house a thing of the past?

26th April 2024

The past four years have been a tumultuous time for the entertainment industry, to say the least, and we’ve seen countless cinemas close their doors. With the future uncertain, one cinema in Ashford is set to be reopened under council management – but will people turn up?

Covid and the cost of living

Back in 2020, staying in the house was not a choice, rather an enforcement that not too many were thrilled with. A quick jump forward to today, however, and it might have become a lifestyle that quite a few people have adopted – for better or for worse.

Some enjoy the comfort of staying in with the safety of a fluffy blanket and hot drink, for others their bank balance might force them to switch their high heels for a pair of slippers as they are priced out of a Saturday night on the town.

Emily Morgan is the general manager at Curzon in Canterbury Westgate, where the change in their customer base has not been unnoticed.

She said: “I definitely think post-Covid people are being a lot more intentional about what they come to see.

“The select few people who are very devoted kind of cinephiles and want to come consistently, we have our little cult membership that people have seven free tickets a week, they can come every day.

“Then we still get people coming in, mostly the older generation, who come in and say, months and years down the line that this is their first trip back to the cinema since the pandemic, so I think it's really made people think about what is worthwhile.”

Curzon is aware that for some customers, missing the latest release is not a choice.

“It is a nice kind of challenge to kind of see what we can draw people back in with.”

— Emily Morgan

Discussing the reasons for the fall in people visiting cinemas, Emily said:

“Generally, just health and everything, kind of making sure that you're safe. Money, as well, at the end of last year we did lower our prices a bit to help.

“We also have a kind of super off-peak day. So, we do see a huge lift on a Wednesday, mid-week when we do have that option available.”

Everything must go! - the upward trend of closing down

Cafes, nightclubs, theatres and cinemas, it looks like even if people had the money or the time to leave the house, there soon won’t be anywhere left to go. From popular cafe’s falling into the sea on the Isle of Wight, right the way up to Scotland where the iconic Jazz Bar closed its doors earlier this month, it has become slim pickings when it comes to how to spend an evening out -- as it feels like every week a new “popular venue” closes its doors for the last time.

What can cinemas still offer?

Going to the cinema offers a fundamentally different experience than what you can get from streaming, so regardless of how the landscape changes, there will always be those who prefer a classic trip to the movies.

Emily Morgan said: “We do get a lot of lovely older customers here, some of whom, kind of our regulars come specifically for our event content. And so, I think they really do see it as a treat and a kind of evening out.

“I think we tend to get more the younger people who are kind of really devoted, a lot of the film students from the University of Kent or Christ Church - who we do have a lovely working relationship with - who are really interested into the features that we show, but I think it's just down to the wide breadth of what we've got going on in cinema at the moment.”

There are many things that venues can offer customers that cannot be delivered by streaming services.

Emily Morgan said: “I think one of the things that we're so lucky to do here, is we have the opportunity to still do things like National Theatre Live and Royal Opera House and things that kind.

“It just makes it all that much more accessible to people who can't access those things. Due to travel or you know, expense or whatever. I think it's just a really nice way to kind of come together and experience something as a community.”

A symbiotic relationship - can cinemas and streaming co-exist in harmony?

The appeal of being able to watch the latest blockbuster from the comfort of your own home, often just a few weeks after its release, is an appealing idea that has left people questioning the place of cinemas in film distribution.

“Obviously, there's an impact there. But I think, I wouldn't say it's been overall, negative, I think we've just tried to marry the relationship as best that we can.”

— Emily Morgan

But does it have to be one or the other?

Emily Morgan talked about how Curzon works alongside Netflix and what they offer to cinema-goers.

She said: “So, we have a kind of working relationship with Netflix, for example, we screen their films in our cinemas in order to help them qualify for things like awards. So interestingly, we do get those films.

“There's some sort of exclusivity there for our customers in that they could see a Netflix release on the big screen before it comes out on streaming. So that's an interesting relationship that we have.”

The rise of streaming doesn’t necessarily have to mean the death of cinema.

Emily Morgan said: “Obviously, there's an impact there. But I think, I wouldn't say it's been overall, negative, I think we've just tried to marry the relationship as best that we can.

“It is a nice kind of challenge to kind of see what we can draw people back in with.”

Looking to the future

The landscape of entertainment is drastically changing and predicting what it will look like in the future is far from an easy task.

Movie releases that five years ago would have been safe bets for box office success are no longer bringing in the audiences they need.

Emily Morgan said: “The things that have traditionally brought in really, really huge audiences, like Marvel, seem to almost be like quieting down or having very short shelf lives. Whereas we, like I said, our kind of like biggest ringers for the start of the year were those heavily awarded films. Zone of Interest, we've had Wicked Little Letters that started its run in February, we had it right up until this past week.

“So, for us, I think for a Canterbury audience, at least as far as I can tell things that rang true to kind of British history, true stories, things like that. But the future of cinema in general, I think there's a lot of really interesting stuff that's coming out right now people are getting a little bit more experimental.”

Covid and the cost of living - photo by Badhan Ganesh on Unsplash

Everything must go! - Photo by the blowup on Unsplash

A symbiotic relationship - photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash