2020 disaster year for film industry, but silver lining for Dutch cinema
The announcement of the annual cinema figures is usually a fairly dull ritual. The Dutch Association of Film Distributors (NVBF) cheerfully raise a glass at the New Year’s reception in the Tuschinski in Amsterdam, where cinema revenues appear to have increased again, as well as the number of visitors, films, halls, and chairs. The trend has been favorable for ten years now.
This year there was a presentation in an empty and cold Tuschinski. The market share of Dutch films, however, was quite heartwarming: 20.7 percent after the disappointing 10.9 percent in 2019. Dutch cinema still turned out to be relatively favorable during the disaster year 2020, in which cinemas were locked down for eleven weeks from mid-March or, in some cases, were screening movies with a maximum of 30 viewers per room. The number of tickets sold thus decreased from 38 million to 16.8 million, the turnover from 348 million to 152 million euros.
There was a silver lining though. The Dutch films benefited from Hollywood pushing its blockbuster movies to 2021. In the end, two nationally produced movies made it onto the top 10 list for 2020. In spot three was ‘De Beentjes van Sing-Hildegard with 712,000 tickets sold, in which Herman Finkers feigns Alzheimer’s to escape his bossy wife. Number five on the top 10 was Linda de Mol’s ‘April, May en June’ with a box office sale of 514,000 tickets. The movie ‘Onze Jongens in Miami’ also did well with 293,000 sales.
Still, visits to Dutch films also fell by 20 percent. After the first lockdown, cinema attendance even shrank by 73 percent. In the first 70 days, this was almost 10 percent higher than during the same period in 2019.
Will 2021 be better?
Cinemas will not be rid of the coronavirus in the coming six months, which was reflected by the somber tone at the Tuschinski on NYE. Last year was all about spectacular new film formats. This year, the focus was on support schemes and ‘field labs’, a study by the Ministry of Economic Affairs that may increase the number of visits to cinemas.
The cinemas fervently hope that the catering rules will be broadened. The rule of thumb is that with the tickets sold, cinemas break even at best. It is the popcorn and Belgian beer sales that make the profit, but in 2020, in addition to the eleven-week lockdown, the popcorn counter was closed for another fifteen weeks.
Winnie Sorgdrager, chairman of the cinema association NVBF, hopes that the government can become more flexible. “The idea is there: don’t be complicated, don’t eat or drink in the same room where you buy it.” Jacques Hoendervangers, director of market leader Pathé, expressed his concern saying, “all respect for the government measures, but the catering industry is thought too lightly. You can solve that problem in an instant by calling the cinema bar a pick-up location.”