It is now for 14 months that cinemas are more or less closed around the world. Covid made possible what seemed to be impossible. Like for other areas of life and society, Covid uncoveres sharply the already existing challenges and imponderabilities of today's cinema landscape. And very likely it will accelerate already emerging changes.
Passage Kino in Berlin/Germany - "Cinema glows for 111 years". The space next to it became a test center, the foyer is a construction site.
Today, it is unforseeable how many cinemas will survive the crisis. Will Covid, training everyone in the consumption of streaming, accelerate the dying of cinemas and eventually make them a museum like institution? Or will people, after months of streaming everythink streamable mostly for themselves, embrace and revive cinema as a place of encounter and intense collective experience?
In many countries, cinemas started campaigns during the first year of the pandemic to survive financially as well as to rise their voice, maybe sometimes also to "do something" against the hopeless situation they found themselves in. Many cinemas also set up or cooperated in streaming platforms themselves, harnassing their enemy to survive. If you want to find something good in all the mess, then it might be this tendency to cooperate in a devastating situation.
Wolf Kino in Berlin/Germany announcing updates and promoting their streaming offer
However, in many countries, jobs already have been cut and cinemas closed. Especially in the US and the UK, major cinema chains such as Cineworld or the ArcLight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres with the famous Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles have closed down. Simultaneously, movie premieres and film festivals are taking place online and streaming platforms are the winner that seems to take it all.
But then we have to recall that cinema so far survived the Spanish flue, television, and video stores. After years of challenge through streaming, cinemas finally are forced to find a way of existing online and offline, of improvising, finding new formats and combining the best of both worlds, hopefully by developing something good out of it. For what the pandemic has shown us drastically is, that no one can live a rich and meaningful life in isolation. We need encouters and the feeling of connectedness to feel alive and even to see ourselves. Cinemas are the enabler to experience this while watching a movie.
Marque-announcements at the Brotfabrik Kino in Berlin-Weißensee illustrate changing attitutes during the pandemic:
"We can do this together" (spring 2020, Photo by Frank Poddig)
"Corona fuck off, nobody misses you" (beginning of 2021, Photo by Thomas Duchnicki)