Shaken by the platforms, weakened by the Covid, is cinema dead or alive?

By Thomas Sotinel

Posted today at 7:45 a.m., updated at 7:45 a.m.

Every morning when he wakes up, the cinema wonders if he is still alive. The answer is never the same. The planetary triumph of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (450 million dollars in receipts in one weekend, at the beginning of May, i.e. approximately 426 million euros) confirms, after the success of The Batman, that teenagers of all ages are always willing to fill the halls that offer them familiar superheroes. Six weeks earlier, the failure ofAmbulance, by Michael Bay, former king of the box office, which this time had to settle for 50 million dollars in receipts, sounded, for American analysts, the death knell of the action film on the big screen, the genre having been preempted by streaming platforms, which have become the first employers of actors specializing in the genre like Mark Wahlberg or Charlize Theron.

In France, theaters are still missing between a quarter and a third of spectators compared to before the pandemic: they were 13.9 million in April 2022, against 18.05 million three years earlier. Of course, the market share of French cinema soared, to 49.2% over the first four months of 2022, while American cinema collapsed, going from 55.7% in 2019 to 27 .3% over this period. But, among the eighty films with the most success over the past year, according to the ranking established by the professional weekly French Filmonly two, In body, by Cédric Klapisch, and Another world, by Stéphane Brizé, belong to auteur cinema. Proceeds went to comedy franchise iterations, What the hell have we done? (Philippe de Chauveron), The Tuches (Olivier Baroux), Kaamelott (Alexandre Astier) or BAC North (Cedric Jiménez).

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As for American films, the shrinking of their audience is explained above all by the scarcity of theatrical releases. The major studios, starting with the largest of them, Disney, have platforms to feed and prefer to reserve the feature films they present or acquire at festivals. In France, this phenomenon has had the effect of impoverishing local production, which was partly financed by the tax on cinema admissions to which Hollywood productions contributed, without benefiting from it.

Munificent patrons

But, at a time when the triumph of platforms, whether from the world of tech (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV +) or from the mutation of studios (Disney +, HBO Max, etc.), seemed as inevitable as that of the zombies in a film by George Romero, it was enough for Netflix to lose 200,000 subscribers (out of 222 million, a drop partly due to the abandonment of the Russian market) for us to discern, in this first decline, the failure of the industrial model defended by its directors, Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos, who have always seen in the cinema a simple means of promotion for “content” to be consumed on home screens. Faced with the need for drastic savings, will the platform be able, will it want, to remain the munificent patron who financed The Irishman, by Martin Scorsese, for a budget that is usually that of a Marvel film? For now, the answer remains yes. A fortnight ago, Netflix announced the acquisition, for the whole world, of bardo, the next feature film by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, the platform swearing that the film would be released everywhere in theaters.

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Shaken by the platforms, weakened by the Covid, is cinema dead or alive?