Arts & Culture, Film & TV

How lockdown killed the cinema

Written by Georgia Hilton-Buckley

I’ve never been someone who went to the cinema a lot, partly because of my anxiety and partly because I simply couldn’t be bothered. Despite tweets over lockdown crying for a ‘Tango Ice Blast’, it would appear that the cinema has well and truly died; and two culprits contributed to its downfall.

The first culprit is one we are all very much aware of right now: COVID-19. COVID has forced the shutdown of all non-essential businesses, and whilst hospitality and retail had the lifeline of online shopping and takeaway, the cinema industry was left with no provisions to survive and suffered because of it.

The delay of the new James Bond film No Time To Die provided a huge knock to cinemas’ potential profits for the year, and this wasn’t the only blow. Other big premiers that were guaranteed money makers for the theatres, such as Mulan, Emma, and several Marvel films including Black Widow, simply couldn’t be seen and were either fast-tracked to streaming platforms or postponed indefinitely.

This brings us to the second culprit, streaming. We can now consume media on Disney+, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sky movies, Hulu and so much more. Many of them have monthly subscription prices at the cost of one or two cinema tickets and offer unlimited streaming of thousands of media.

The highly anticipated live action remake of Mulan was removed from cinemas and placed directly onto the new streaming service Disney+, removing the chance of even a post lockdown cinema viewing.

Streaming platforms also provide a lot more than simply films. They’ve produced high-quality television shows and documentaries on topics from true crime to Taylor Swift. This mixture of exclusive content and a wide range of unlimited streaming killed the need to go to the cinema.

Instead of finding your way to the nearest cinema, sitting next to somebody loudly eating popcorn and talking to their friend, and having to watch all of the adverts, we can now sit at home on our sofas; eating snacks we haven’t been overcharged for, and feeling free to pause and nip to the toilet whenever we want.

The change in how we consume media has transformed dramatically as well. Anyone who has used TikTok recently will tell you how their attention span has dramatically shortened. Most YouTube videos are between 10-15 minutes, and when the adverts are taken out of some American shows they only run for twenty minutes.

Sitting down and concentrating on one form of media isn’t common anymore, and in my case every night while I watch TV, I’m also scrolling on my phone or talking to someone. Cinemas prevent us from behaving in the way we would normally when watching films, which encourages us to stay at home so we can read Twitter while Adam Driver has a breakdown in Marriage Story.

Quite frankly cinema cannot keep up with streaming and our new lives centralised around the home. I remember kids in my year skipping school to line up outside the cinema so they could see Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1, something that seems unfathomable right now.

The cinema died because society moved on, just as arcades faded into the past for gaming, and unfortunately, I cannot see them making a revival after this third lockdown. Netflix and its rivals have taken the lead, and with Apple now entering the game, I’d say it’s time to call it on cinemas and sign the death certificate.


Georgia is a third politics student at the University of Leicester with an interest in literature, philosophy, and culture. 

Image by Krists Luhaers, from Unsplash.