In the corona pandemic, the cinema industry was one of the most severely affected industries. Now visitors are returning to the cinemas: from March to August 2021 the increase was 284.9 percent.
Cinema operators had a hard time during the corona crisis, with visitor numbers falling by 71.8 percent to 390,178 guests between August 2019 and 2020. The race to catch up was all the greater in the current year, as Christian Dörfler, as the branch chairman of the industry in the Chamber of Commerce, underlined in a press conference on Thursday: From March to August 2021, the year-on-year increase was 284.9 percent.
“Can’t hold lockdown again”
Accordingly, the chairman of the trade association, who, as the owner of the Vienna Haydn cinema, is also the operator, spoke out vehemently against the country being locked again: “We cannot stand a lockdown again.” It is therefore important that compliance with the 3G rules is monitored as consistently as in the cinemas. In view of the low level of communication and movement, one must emphasize again: “The risk of infection in the cinema is much lower than in the supermarket or many other areas, for example.”
Dörfler satisfied with financial support for cinemas
The cinemas are quite satisfied with the financial support from the industry in the lockdown, Dörfler conceded: “It all worked well.” This also applies in a European comparison, with the exception of Greece: “It never worked so well anywhere else.”
Impact of corona rules unclear
The question of how a possible 1G or 2G rule would affect cinemas with increasing incidence in hospitals is not so easy to answer. Arthouse cinemas in the city with an older, more educated audience are probably less affected than cinemas in the country, where the test rate is significantly higher.
Cinema market is “not a dying industry”
Basically, the situation of the domestic cinema market with its 140 companies with 562 halls and 90,000 seats was relatively solid before the pandemic. “The number of visitors has been pretty stable over the past ten years,” said Dörfler. Annually you could show between 13 and 15 million visitors – until the pandemic. In 2020 the numbers plummeted by 71.8 percent to 2,198,628 visitors. “We are not a dying industry, but one that has developed very well up to the pandemic,” emphasized the chairman of the specialist group. The number of moviegoers across Europe has risen by 39 percent since 1999 and the British cinema market, for example, recorded the highest number of visitors since 1972.
Streaming is not a “great danger to the cinema”
Accordingly, the booming streaming industry is not the problem either. “I see streaming as a competitor, of course, but not as a major threat to cinema,” said Dörfler. Last but not least, it has also been shown for the studios that the business model of cinemas is predictable, which is less the case in streaming.
Promotion of “broad-based” films called for
Rather a topic is the question of how the share of domestic productions in the cinema market can be increased, as a comparison of European countries shows that the higher the share of domestic films in a country, the higher the growth rates. While this was 21.2 percent in Italy in 2019, 19.7 percent in Germany and 10.9 percent in the Netherlands, this was only 2.8 percent in Austria. Dörfler emphasized that the mandate to the Austrian funding agencies was also to invest in broad-based productions: “We don’t get any benefit if we only receive funding from Arthaus products.”
Receive reduced tax rate over Corona crisis 2021
Other demands of the industry include maintaining the VAT rate of 5 percent, which was reduced during the crisis, beyond 2021, as this has not yet had a significant impact on the lack of sales. “Up until now it was more of a gesture,” said Dörfler. In addition, not only the art house cinemas but all companies in the industry should benefit from the funding.
The enthusiasm for the cinema should also be increased with an action that is organized together with Ö3: The Ö3-Kinopass. Nine passes – one per federal state – will be raffled by the radio station between September 13 and 16. With the pass, owners can finally go to all cinemas in Austria free of charge for one year. Registration for the promotion starts on Friday.