Spaniards have returned to the cinema, but streaming premieres are still a problem | ICON

The dire predictions about the future of movie theaters to the detriment of streaming They have been greatly exaggerated. The social distancing of the pandemic left the audience that came to see a movie on the big screen to a minimum. But the trend has reversed. Although at general levels it is still 18% below pre-pandemic data, in 2023 the Spanish box office improved the previous year's data by 26%, according to a ComScore report. The phenomenon bears great responsibility Barbenheimerthat is, the premiere, in July, of the films Barbie and Oppenheimerwhich have made this summer the second highest grossing of the last ten years.

Between them, they have brought more than eight and a half million spectators to theaters. With Super Mario Bros. The Movie and Avatar: The Sense of Water (released at the end of 2022 and, therefore, with a good part of its box office obtained in January), the four most successful releases have exceeded, for the first time since 2019, 20 million euros.

“July 2023 has been the best month in our history,” declares Fernando Lobo, head of programming and communication at the Cines Embajadores of Madrid, who sees the success of Barbie and Oppenheimer reminiscent of the era of cinema as a mass phenomenon. His case, he emphasizes, is a rare bird: they opened the year of the pandemic, when many cinemas were forced to close. “We wanted to recover this leisure activity for the Arganzuela neighborhood,” he explains. “The cinema has been relegated to the peripheral shopping center, but having a room under the house makes it easier for it to leave. “It is about making services available to citizens.”

For chains like Yelmo Films, recovery has involved expanding supply. The Spanish company, with more than 50 complexes throughout the country, has opted for live screenings such as the World Cup final in Qatar, Eurovision or concerts by groups such as Coldplay, opera, theater and ballet. Also new formats, from cinemas that mix the audiovisual experience with the gastronomic experience to 4D-E Motion rooms, which combine 3D with vibrations of seats, wind, water and smells. They have even created rooms for the little ones, with beanbags and slides.

Alternative and smaller cinemas, for their part, have sought to gain loyalty from the people of their neighborhood or city. Numax, in Santiago de Compostela, opts for popular prices, with the session at 5.90 euros or 4 with an annual subscription. They are the only theaters in the Galician capital that show independent films in their original version with subtitles, among other initiatives. “We have a bookstore, where presentations and other activities are held, we try to help Galician cinema and we also bring filmmakers to give classes,” says Xan Gómez, cooperative member and founder of this cinema that last year attracted 33,000 spectators.

La Gran Vía in 1995, when it was still full of cinemas.Sofia Moro (Cover/Getty Images)

When televisions arrived in homes in the mid-20th century, there was talk of the end of radio. Something similar has happened with him streaming and the rooms. There were those who predicted its end with access to first-run movies at home for the payment of a monthly subscription, sometimes cheaper than a single ticket. However, reality has gone through other channels. 2023 has also been the year of the Hollywood actors and screenwriters' strike, motivated by the threat of artificial intelligence fueled by intellectual properties and the industry's low payments for series and films sold to platforms. With more than 160,000 actors supporting it, it was the largest strike in more than 60 years. After 118 days of protests, Disney, Netflix, Warner and other major studios accepted their demands, which resulted in a salary increase and a pay bonus for the streaming. They also achieved protection against artificial intelligence.

Gómez sees it as essential to reach a model of coexistence between rooms and platforms. “Governments should set a legal limit of about three months for films to be released in streaming”, he thinks. Fernando Lobo cites the case of Disney, which he saw how Black Widow It was hitting the box office as a result of the simultaneous premiere on its platform for an additional price. And he advocates for “synergies”: “Why don't we put, for example, the chapters of The Messiah in theaters? Wouldn't it have been more profitable for Movistar?

The snow society as a symptom of the return to cinema

JA Bayona's film produced by Netflix, despite having a limited release (110 prints, less than a third of those Wonka) and an exclusive exhibition window in cinemas of only three weeks, has obtained close to 2.3 million euros in Spanish theaters, according to data from the Ministry of Culture at the close of this edition. Released on December 14 and nominated for the Oscar for best international film, The Snow Society It has managed to convince 330,000 viewers to go to the cinema even though it could be seen on Netflix 20 days later. It is left to the imagination to guess how much it would have raised with a typical big commercial release.

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