Can James Bond save Suffolk's cinemas?
- Credit: Nicola Dove/2021 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM/ Simon Parker/ Leiston Film Theatre
James Bond may be more used to saving the world but Suffolk's independent cinemas hope that he will be able to give them a much needed boost.
007's latest blockbuster 'No Time to Die' is released on September 30 after Covid delays.
For Suffolk's cinemas the delayed release has been a real struggle, but with Bond set to be the first big film release after Covid, many are hopeful that it will bring back filmgoers.
"Bond is going to be the event to get cinemas going again," said Wayne Burns from Leiston Film Theatre.
"He is saving us as much as saving the world."
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Mr Burns said that the enduring appeal of the franchise meant that he was hopeful that visitors would return to see it.
"It appeals to people of all ages from teenagers to people in their 90s," he said.
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"It's one of those cinematic events. We need the spectacle of it."
So much is the attraction of the super spy that the cinema is expecting fans to dress up for the showings while the film theatre is planning on serving vodka martinis - shaken not stirred of course.
It's not only in Leiston where fans have been preparing for the return of 007.
"Ticket sales have been extremely high and there's a buzz of excitement and anticipation from both customers and staff alike," said Andrea Holmes from Abbeygate Cinema in Bury St Edmunds.
"As a business, we feel extremely grateful that we managed to survive the turbulence of recent months but we have much relied on the anticipated revenue Bond will bring; so far audience members have not disappointed and sales remain buoyant.
"It will also be the first time, potentially, that our new premier screen will be at full capacity.
"However, we do also have some socially-distanced screenings on sale.
"We hope this will be the start of rejuvenating people's love of the cinema and bring audiences back to the big screen to enjoy future films so there's much to feel hopeful about."
However, there are still concerns that fans might not be fully ready to return to cinemas.
Neil McGlone, from the Riverside Cinema in Woodbridge, said: "A new James Bond film is always a time to celebrate for cinemas as whenever they are released they are traditionally the biggest grossing film that year and thus an independent cinema’s dream come true.
"However these are not “normal” times and cinemas have been struggling to regain their audiences - globally they are only operating at around 40-50% of their audience levels pre-pandemic, which whilst this is an improvement over 2020 figures it is still a cause for concern.
"Cinemas were able to reopen in May 2021 and with the exception of a couple of tentpole films, content has been pretty slim and audience numbers thin on the ground, with August in particular being a particularly tough month for independent cinemas nationally - so the news that Bond was not to be put back again for a fourth time and was still to be released on September 30 was the news we were all waiting to hear.
"However, sadly it may not be the saviour that we had all hoped as when tickets went on sale on September 13, sales were nowhere near the levels they had been for the last Bond film, SPECTRE.
"Thankfully it has still sold way more tickets than anything else we have had on sale at The Riverside and our evening screenings are selling very well but the two afternoon screenings are very thin on the ground."