Cinemas working hard to bring audiences back from Covid destruction

Lido Cinemas, Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn . Picture Ben Ponsford
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Cinemagoers were delighted when movie theatres reopened following lockdown, but the return to pre-Covid audiences is happening slowly. Ben Ponsford reports.

Cinemas across the state are slowly coming back to life following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

Lido Cinemas Hawthorn assistant manager Hudson Sowada said cinemas had returned to some semblance of normality, though not to pre-Covid strength.

“The effects of the pandemic are still being felt,” he said.

Cinemas shut last year on March 23, 2020, when Victoria went into its first lockdown and didn’t reopen until November 8.

Mr Sowada said one of the early films they showed this year was Godzilla vs. Kong, but it didn’t do great business.

“It was not a really big-ticket item like The Avengers and Star Wars films, as well as films like The Irishman and Jojo Rabbit,” he said.

There is a slow build-up, but nowhere near the amount we would normally be getting.

“On a really good Friday, we would be getting 1000 people coming through the building. Now it would be between 500 to 700 people,” he said.  

Cinemas working hard to bring audiences back from Covid destruction
Godzilla vs. Kong. Picture Warner Bros. Pictures.

However, Lido Cinemas remains hopeful that audiences will rebound, despite the lower ticket sales so far.

Mr Sowada said cinemas are not going anywhere, anytime soon.

“We’re trying to keep things interesting by having events showing retro films filling up those blanks and have a film festival coming up,” he said.

“We’re trying to make ourselves sustainable without the need for those big-ticket Hollywood items.”

Mr Sowada said both Village Cinemas and Palace Cinemas had struggled following lockdown, as their cinemas generally attracted an older crowd who were often more cautious about Covid-19.  

Cinemas working hard to bring audiences back from Covid destruction
Dreampool Productions Producer, Bob Grieve. Image:

Independent TV production company Dreampool Productions producer Bob Grieve said many people would be hesitant about returning to cinemas, given current health concerns.

“It’ll take a little bit of time before cinemas return to normal,” he said.

Other aspects of filmmaking were also struggling, which was also true in the US.

“Film studios have struggled to acquire film locations as well as funding,” Mr Grieve said.

“One of the difficult things producing any film is funding. It is particularly difficult as government funding bodies have been holding off.”

“A lot of film industries have been moving their productions to Australia.”

The state of the cinema industry worldwide has been put on hold, as film studios delayed the release of significant blockbusters during the worst of the pandemic.

As a result, the global box office revenue was just $12 billion in 2020, $28 billion less than global revenue in 2019, according to Statista.