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Awards bring hope to cinemas still coping with Covid aftermath

Awards season 2021 is kicking off with The Oscars on Monday, wth the industry hoping the nominated and winning films will pave the way for a strong return to cinemas by moviegoers and critics.

Last year saw a large-scale shift to how films were made and distributed to consumers, with many film specials, original shows and productions going to audiences direct via streaming services.

Newer platforms, such as HBO Max and Disney+, gained mass numbers of new subscribers during the pandemic as lockdowns forced audiences to consume their entertainment at home. That extra revenue funded more projects and ventures.

Astor Theatre general manager Zak Hepburn said the cinema industry had already faced challenges from TV, VHS and DVD, and streaming was just another.

“The difference with streaming is the amount of content that is available and the fact that it is generally delivered in very high quality,” he said.

But Mr Hepburn said people would continue to go to cinemas when they want to watch a film, at least in the near future.

“A good analogy for it is: you have a kitchen at home, but you will still go to restaurants.”

Awards bring hope to cinemas still coping with Covid aftermath

Astor Theatre’s Zak Hepburn is ready to see audiences back in their seats. Picture: supplied.

Big hitters pave the way

Notable nominations of the 93rd Academy Awards include the widely talked about Nomadland (2020) and international success Minari (2020).

The buzz surrounding these films have encouraged audiences to return to their pre-lockdown practices. Both films will screen in cinemas through the awards season.

Recent successes—notably including the Korean film and award favourite Parasite (2019)—suggest the weight of awards will bring audiences back to cinema seats.

Awards bring hope to cinemas still coping with Covid aftermath

Frances McDormand in the film Nomadland. Image: Searchlight Pictures.

Mr Hepburn said independent cinemas made it through the lockdowns by looking to international and smaller films.

Turning away from a reliance on Hollywood blockbusters meant that there could be “curatorial programs of art-house films … and [an engagement with] the national film festival circuit,” he said.

The pandemic, and the lockdowns that followed, saw a lack of confidence in audiences. “It was about being transparent and being upfront about your processes, being very aware that things can change immediately and having that communication tool with your audience.”

“Going forward, I think it’ll be a different version of film-going and cinema-going,” he said.


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