The price of energy slows down the recovery of cinemas

Projecting movies on the big screen and air conditioning the large rooms of cinemas consumes a lot of electricity. And the soaring prices of electricity have been a jug of not cold, frozen water for the multiplex companies, which were experiencing a 2022 of gradual recovery after the closures and restrictions suffered in the pandemic, which translated into very high numbers of spectators and billing. low. An increase in costs that, moreover, have not affected the prices of tickets or popcorn and drinks, with which profit margins have been drastically reduced. However, the businessmen, who demand aid from the administrations, live the current situation with some optimism, encouraged by the success of the Film Festival held this week and hopeful about the powerful premieres that are coming, but aware of the delicate moment that they have been going through relentlessly for two and a half years.

According to data from Insight View, an advanced analytics platform, movie theater billing levels are 40% below pre-pandemic levels, and 28% of businesses are at risk of default. Although the director of the Gremi de Cinemes de Catalunya, Pilar Sierra, acknowledges that "the situation is complicated", she defends at the same time that "we are in a trend of increasing viewers, recovery, slow, but positive". A recovery that has been hampered by the skyrocketing cost of energy and raw materials, laments Sierra, who advances that "from the Gremi we are preparing a survey from which to extract data to present our needs to the administration and ask for help" .

Proof of the recovery of activity in movie theaters is that, according to the representative, "until September of this year we have already had more viewers than in all of 2021", a year that was still marked by closures and restrictions due to the health crisis. Regarding the pre-pandemic figures, Sierra comments that 2019 is still far from billing, but remembers that this was the best year of the last decade for movie theaters. «The Film Festival has gone very well and the forecast is that this last quarter of the year will be good too, especially with Avatar 2», says Sierra, who acknowledges that «assistance to cinemas is very conditioned to the premieres there are». Looking to the future, "we hope that over the next year it will finish normalizing, 2023 should be the year of the consolidation of the recovery, as long as nothing external spoils it."

The price of electricity, for four

Who suffers in his own flesh the uncontrolled increase in the price of electricity is Joan Montserrat, owner of the MCB Cinemes de Calafell. "My bill has multiplied by four, and I have gone from paying around 3,500 or 4,000 euros a month to paying 15,000," laments the businessman, who states that "in addition to the cost of electricity for the projection of the film, it also consumes a lot of air conditioning of the rooms, very high and with many cubic meters to heat or cool, depending on the time of year».

To this we must add the difficulties that the sector went through during the pandemic and that is still dragging on and the war in Ukraine, which has caused a significant rise in the price of sunflower oil and corn, two products necessary for the production of popcorn, an offer that cannot be missed in the cinema. And, Montserrat recalls, that the economic complication is greater in the case of businesses that do not own the facilities and each month they have to pay rent – ​​in their case, it is the owner. Although the height of this set of obstacles is that businessmen cannot pass on the increases in all this series of costs neither at the entrance nor in the genre they sell at the bar. "We are experiencing a very serious crisis that affects everyone and going to the cinema is an expense that can be avoided if necessary," says Montserrat, who adds that "all prices are rising extraordinarily, and all that is missing is that we also upload them. We try to endure as much as we can by reducing our margins as much as possible and if we receive aid we can continue like this, but if not in the future we will have to take the appropriate measures to survive.

The sector demands financial aid from the administration to overcome this pothole

Josep Eduard Príncep, manager of Ocine Les Gavarres de Tarragona, also regrets this slowdown in the post-pandemic recovery. “We came from very difficult times, although in 2021 people have already begun to come to the cinema, first the youngest and then the adults dared, and we planted ourselves in 2022 with a lot of optimism,” recalls Príncep who nevertheless regrets the jar of cold water that is the arrival of each electricity bill. "We consume a lot, we have doubled and tripled our spending and in a year when you don't have the figures for 2019, which I think will be difficult to recover because it was also the best year of the last decade," says the manager of the Tarragona multiplex.

Another factor that influences a good attendance at the cinema, as it could not be otherwise, are the films that are projected. Príncep celebrates that there are films that premiered at the beginning of summer and are still successful, such as top gunand stresses that this year «we depend a lot on Hollywood, because Spanish cinema, beyond Father there is only one 3 Y Alcarràswhich have been very well received, is not selling much». In spite of everything, he qualifies as "green shoots" the success of the Film Festival, held last week, or the premieres, which are expected to be blockbusters, of some Disney movies in November or that of Avatar 2 in December, "for which we have already placed an order for 3D glasses because we expect a lot of people." In fact, a remastering of the first installment is currently being screened and fills theaters daily.

Spend without billing as much

And the rooms that bet on independent cinema suffer more, with a very specific audience far from the masses that the commercial moves. Although they obviously don't have as many rooms as a multiplex, they do spend practically the same amount on spaces such as lobbies, but with much lower billing. This is the example of the Rambla de l'Art Cambrils, run by Toni Badimón, who says that they have gone from paying 700 euros to 2,000 for the rise in electricity. "This year we will have around 20,000 spectators in total, and luckily we do other activities, because with the cinema we lose money," he laments.

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