After being closed for five and a half months, cinemas were finally able to open their doors again in early June. Would visitors return enthusiastically? Or would people not dare yet or remain glued to their Netflix screen?
Govert de Kok, co-owner of the Leiden cinemas Trianon, Lido and Kijkhuis, was delighted to see that the public was able to find their way to the cinema again. “The group of regular visitors was the first to return. They immediately returned enthusiastically.”
“That was a huge boost, to see that people had really missed the cinema.” The general public followed a little later. “But all target groups returned. Young and old. And much faster than we expected.”
Anne de Jong, director of Film Distributors Netherlands, confirms that this was also the case in the rest of the country. “The summer was just good, despite the one and a half meter restrictions. We were thirty percent below 2019 and that was a record year.”
Due to the measures, about one third of their seats were available at cinema chain Pathé, the company said by email. These were often almost all occupied, especially on weekends and school holidays.
The war film The Battle of the Scheldt scored well and has so far attracted more than half a million people to the cinema. Luizenmoeder – De Film and superhero film Black Widow also did good business. But it was the fast cars of Fast & Furious 9 that brought in the most money with a Dutch turnover of more than 6 million euros.
This week the science fiction spectacle Dune came out. An epic film, for which the following applies: the bigger the screen, the better. And all Bond fans are already counting down to September 30, the day when No Time to Die, the 25th film in the 007 series, will finally be screened.
The expectations for this film are high. “The presale of tickets is going very fast in England. Those are figures from before the pandemic,” says De Jong.
But the film will be released a few days after the introduction of the corona pass measure, which obliges cinemas to check the corona admission ticket of their visitors.
“Everyone is very happy that the major films are now going to be released, but we have mixed feelings, because we don’t know what to expect with the introduction of the corona pass,” says De Jong.
Drop in visitors
In France, the arrival of the sanitary pass caused a sharp drop in visitors. “The hope we have is that the high vaccination rate in the Netherlands may make it not so bad, but we are concerned about the young people who form a large part of the public,” said De Jong.
Because a group of young people, one of whom has not been vaccinated, might skip the cinema to do something else. He fears that it is also a lot of work to ensure that these mandatory checks run smoothly.
“Something is now being used for a short period of time for which entrepreneurs have to incur a lot of extra costs. Cinemas are made enforcers and they are not set up for that. All of this has to be organized in the short term,” says De Jong.
Do what it takes
Cinema operator De Kok is clear about this. “Of course we want to go back to the time as it was before corona as soon as possible. If this is the next step in opening completely again, then we just have to do that.”
What does he expect the effect of the corona pass to be? “It could cause a temporary dip, but we have to see it. The vaccination rate in France was much lower when the corona pass was introduced than it is in the Netherlands now.”
The import of the corona pass also yields something: the cinemas can then let go of the one and a half meter measure and can therefore sell more tickets. “We will soon have to say ‘no’ less often, because we can use the full capacity and therefore sell out less quickly,” explains De Kok.
And the planned programming is not wrong. Many film studios now dare to take their delayed films off the shelf. “There is a lot of great stuff on the program and that gives the entire sector a lot of energy,” says De Jonge.
In addition to Dune and James Bond, people are also looking forward to the new Paul Verhoeven film Benedetta, Marvel film The Externals and titles such as Soof 3, All on the table, The Matrix Resurrections and Spider-Man: No Way Home. “There is enough for all target groups, it will not be the films,” says De Jonge.
In Leiden, too, there is ‘a very good atmosphere’ in the cinema around the release of these major films. “A mix of enthusiasm and healthy tension”, says De Kok, who is personally looking forward to No.10 by Alex van Warmerdam.
“But what I like about James Bond is that that film also attracts people who otherwise would not or hardly come to the cinema. I think that is fantastic. I get goosebumps when I think about it,” says De Kok.