Christchurch cinemas face challenge as young movie-goers stay away

Photo: File / Getty Images
Photo: File / Getty Images
Has Covid-19 killed the cinema for Gen Y? Emily Moorhouse investigates.

Cinemas face an uphill battle attracting young adults, who are not only used to video streaming but also wary about Covid.

NZ on Air data shows subscription video on demand is the second-most popular media in terms of time spent (behind linear TV), with YouTube now New Zealand’s most popular channel.

A survey of more than 1400 Canterbury University students found more than 80 per cent prefer to watch movies on SVOD with more than 40 per cent saying they have not set foot in a cinema in more than a year.

Paige Cornish.
Paige Cornish.
Paige Cornish used to go to the cinema at least once a month but now worries about the cleaning process post-Covid.

“I have only gone once since lockdown,” Cornish said. The 20-year-old has turned instead to streaming movies.

Troy Burnett, 21, prefers watching movies with a cinema crowd but has not visited a cinema in more than a year.

He said he “might’ve been a bit wary” about returning to the cinema after New Zealand’s first lockdown, and was also waiting for new films to be released.

Many big budget movie releases, including the new Bond movie No Time to Die, have been delayed because of Covid, while others, such as Mulan, have been released straight to SVOD.

Troy Burnett
Troy Burnett
“It’s pretty annoying,” Burnett said.

“Hopefully, they’ll be here by the end of the year and don’t keep getting pushed back.”

Lumière Cinemas co-owner Nick Paris said the attraction of SVOD for younger people marked a “ generational shift” for movie-going.

“They’re so used to watching Netflix and web-based series. They’ll only really go to the cinema if it’s a special event.”

Paris said Covid had affected his cinema “greatly” and, in spite of social distancing and regular sanitising, there was “still an element of doubt” for people around the risks of going to the cinema.

Lumière Cinemas. Photo:
Lumière Cinemas. Photo:
He is trying to grow the market, particularly for students, by “spending up” on radio advertising, but said it was a tough nut to crack.

“A lot of students are dirt poor so the idea of $10 a month for a Netflix account won’t harm them, but $15 per pop in cinema does.”

A Hoyts employee said Covid-19 was continuing to have an impact long after lockdowns were lifted.

“We didn’t have any movies coming out, so business just completely died down.”

He said that Disney films were proving the most popular so far, but they attracted mostly children and parents, and did little to boost young adults’ interest.

“[For them] it’s a lot more convenient to have a Netflix subscription than to go to the movies.”


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