Boosted by vaccine distribution, the UK's independent cinemas bounce back
Guy Henderson in London

British cinema-goers have been taking advantage of theaters reopening, dampening fears that the pandemic would put off audiences. 

In October 2020, cinemas were back open, but many - like the Catford Mews cinema in southeast London were quiet as attendees stayed away amid surging COVID-19 cases.



New naming system for COVID-19 variants

Who is Jurgen Conings, the target of Belgium's manhunt?

Watch: A drone is flown into an erupting volcano


Within weeks, things got even worse. The government re-introduced lockdown measures and Preston Benson, who runs the cinema, had to close down the business.

Now, after months of lockdown, the cinema is buzzing, with hundreds of people buying tickets to see Oscar-winner Nomadland and family favorite Peter Rabbit 2. 

Ongoing social distancing measures mean numbers must still be limited in indoor spaces and that continues to hamper revenues, but with all legally binding restrictions - at the moment - due to end on June 21, Benson and his team are in confident mood.

"We've had in the last week 1,000 tickets pre-sold, and all our tickets for Nomadland – the Oscar-winning movie – are sold out," Benson notes, despite Nomadland being available on home-streaming services for several weeks.

People you speak to here have come to see a movie but it is about more than that. Walk through the Catford Mews hallway and you will find a collection of food stalls, a bar, and - of course - popcorn.  Cinema is an experience. And people can finally enjoy a night out of the house.

Bouncing back, stronger than ever? 

Think back to the start of the pandemic and the kinds of businesses that were feared would suffer most. 

Cinemas, where attendees were often in tightly-packed indoor spaces, were near the top of the list. It seems almost inconceivable that a year on, the team at this cinema are wondering whether independent cinemas like their one might actually come out of this unprecedented crisis stronger than it went into it.

It seems counter-intuitive. Anyone who didn't have a home-streaming service before the pandemic will surely have one now. So, will demand for the big screen not dwindle permanently, some have argued? The reality may be somewhat less clean-cut. 

Beyond the initial hunger to leave home, a backlog of blockbusters - Nomadland amongst them - is likely to hog the calendar through the summer. But it is exactly because so many more people have become atuned to watching them from home this last year or so, that those big-ticket items will not stay in theaters as long. 

That potentially leaves more space for more movies -  often perhaps lower-budget productions that might never otherwise have had a shot at that level of exposure. 

Openings in the film calendar may open up that simply were not there before.

Search Trends