This market insight provides an update on the impact of COVID-19 on the global cinema business (as at 02/4/20); discusses the Sony Global Relief Fund for COVID-19, results from a return to cinemagoing survey by EDO, as well as distribution.

Sony Corp has established a $100m fund (Sony Global Relief Fund for COVID-19) as a way to help current situation. The money will be targeted in three areas: frontline medical staff; remote education and the creative community.

On the distribution front, another major release has shifted its theatrical release to next summer, as Universal’s Minions: The Rise of Gru will now be released on 2nd July 2021. Fellow Illumination Entertainment title Sing 2, which previously held this date, will now be released on 22nd December 2021, which in turn had previously been held by Wicked. The latter has no date yet for release.

In France, the authorities have widened the choice of films that can now be seen online, exceptionally laying to one side the strict media chronology regulations. Films that were released at end November can now shorten their window onto VOD or EST platforms, adding to those films that were in cinemas at the time of their closure.

The South Korean government has unveiled some measures for the film industry, including a retroactive (back to February) cut to the film fund tax, which is a 3% levy on cinema tickets that is used to support the film industry. Twenty films whose theatrical release was affected by the COVID-19 crisis will also receive some marketing support. Theatrical is the main plank of revenue for domestic releases, with 80% of revenues coming from this window. Not all cinemas are closed in Korea.

Following yesterday’s survey on potential responses by audiences with regard to a return to cinemagoing, a second survey has thrown up a more positive reaction to the prospect of going back to cinemas. Of the 6,800 people surveyed online, over 70% said they were likely to return to cinemas once they reopened, with a nearly half (45%) stating they were “highly likely.” Less than 10 % said they were highly unlikely or somewhat unlikely to return to a cinema once they re-open. Drilling further down, 20% will return immediately and 25% a few days after opening. However, nearly half (45%) will also ‘wait a few weeks’ until they return, and a rump of 11% will wait several months. These results are at variance with the half (49%) of respondents in yesterday’s survey that said they would wait a few months or never return. This may have several explanations, such as the date of survey, the type of respondent and the regional skew of respondents, and it is too early to draw any firm conclusions as yet.

The survey was undertaken by EDO as part of the “Social Distancing Moviegoing and TV Habits” report, which polled (online) 6,800 people nationwide between 24th and 28th March. 95% of the group had seen at least two movies in the last six months.

This survey suggests there will be a period of time after cinemas officially re-open when full attendance levels are not to be expected (just over half would wait a few weeks or more), and a major release would not fulfil its potential box office. This may indicate that for a month or so, older films, re-releases, smaller films, event cinema screenings, and films that recently released but didn’t end their theatrical run may be the most viable choices of films for cinemas, maybe with an incentive from distributors (such as lower rental fees) as has happened online and was planned in China.