With the Masses Increasingly Craving Shared Experiences, Cinema's Not Dead Yet
Super Mario Bros has grossed over $1.2 billion at the global box office so far.
There are many reasons for the success of the movie, few of which I will be addressing here. But its popularity shows that the long purported death of cinema may be far off yet.
We have seen countless images of empty theater seats over the last decade. Headlines have declared movie palaces dead, slain by streaming services. But I believe we are seeing not the end of an era, but rather a change of context.
The quality of writing and production in television has shown generational improvement, with the likes of Mad Men, Succession and Breaking Bad transcending traditional forms of network storytelling. But watching TV and streaming movies is still a relatively disposable experience.
Conversely, sharing time and space with folks who have all chosen to leave their homes and buy a ticket to the same movie transports us to another realm. Such shared experience becomes, in the words of Quentin Tarantino, an "indelible snapshot" in the memory.
There's been much talk of Top Gun: Maverick and Tom Cruise almost single-handedly saving cinema in 2022. Cinemark CEO Sean Gamble and Atlas Cinemas vice president Gabriel Saluan both credited the surprise smash hit with luring back audiences en masse. However, word-of-mouth sensations like Oscar-winning Everything, Everywhere All at Once also elevated interest and boosted diversity.
Though worlds apart in themes and tone, these films created unifying, shared emotive experiences for live audiences. They felt especially potent in a post-lockdown world.
Each took different approaches to put butts in seats. For Maverick, Paramount harnessed large-scale traditional advertising, while A24 leveraged cultural moments and grassroots buzz for Everything, Everywhere. Maverick also leaned into TikTok, with #TopGunMaverick racking up 3.6 billion views, suggesting that the platform could play a big role in driving future box-office bonanzas.
TikTok becomes even more of a linchpin through its recent collaboration with Screenvision. This move aims to capitalize on the high level of immersion cinema offers to brands. We're talking about theater audiences paying 75 percent active attention to ads, plus 100 percent viewability—numbers considerably higher than TV and digital platforms
"Now more than ever, our Upfront presents the opportunity to emphasize cinema's empathic comeback alongside the year's spectacular slate of upcoming films," says Screenvision CRO Christine Martino.
Historically the two core ingredients of going to the movies have been: access to exclusive content and the cinema experience itself. Streaming's ubiquity has made the former more challenging, so the latter will continue to gain traction, helping to ensure that the silver screen survives.
With big releases like Barbie, Oppenheimer, The Flash and Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning in the pipeline, it's safe to say that people will be getting off their sofas to munch popcorn in big dark rooms a while longer.
Sure, you could turn off the lights in your living room and nibble on a snack. But In the words of filmmaker and activist Michael Moore: "The movie theater is never going away. If that was the case why are there still restaurants? People still have kitchens at home."