Get your popcorn ready, cinema is back!

‘Have you seen the new Bond film yet?!’ seems to be the question on everyone’s lips at the moment, and if you have, what an ending! But whether you’ve seen it or not, chances are you’ve not escaped the headlines – No Time to Die is currently the 8th highest-grossing movie of all time (and is set to overtake Titanic to make 7th place by the time we publish this post!) and the most successful film of the ‘pandemic era’. It’s been a long time coming – the film was one of the first to encounter delays due to coronavirus, but its producers were committed to a big-screen cinema release. And the wait has paid off – cinema is back with a bang.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

The cinema industry was one of the worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Lockdown after lockdown meant theatres sat empty for most of the last 18 months. But it seems that this forced absence has only made the heart grow fonder, and cinemagoers have now returned in droves. Recent research for DCM by Old Salt found that in the first three months after cinemas re-opened their doors in May 2021, almost half of cinemagoers had returned (44%), with this figure set to rise to more than three quarters by the end of the year (77%).

Being locked down at length saw an acceleration in the usage of streaming services, and more than half of cinemagoers say they used these services to get their film fix while the cinemas were closed (52%). Those that did were able to take advantage of big-name titles such as Black Widow, Cruella and Jungle Cruise being available to buy on Disney+ on the same day as their cinema release, but it seems even this couldn’t quite fill the cinema void – those who bought one of these pay per view films are even more likely to have since returned to watch the big screen (61% returned in the first three months and 84% are set to have returned by the end of the year). But what is it about the cinema that makes it so special?


Firstly, the scale of the cinema is unrivalled – two thirds of returning cinemagoers agree that even the best TV and sound system can’t compete with the cinema experience (65%). To see a film on the big screen is to see a film as it was intended, the images and sound engulf you and there are no adverts to detract from the full impact of the narrative.


To give a film – or anything for that matter – our full, undivided attention is incredibly rare these days, with our phone always at hand, tempting us to check emails, scroll social media or browse online shopping sites.

And even with the best will in the world, if you’re watching a film at home you’re likely to suffer distractions from all angles – the dog jumping up to lick your face during the climax of a horror film kind of kills the suspense…


This could be why the cinema, more than any other media, is described as magical. But the magic doesn’t just come from the film, the emotions of the crowd are infectious – 6 in 10 returning cinemagoers agree being part of a cinema audience heightens the experience of a film compared to watching at home (63%).

The film experience is also amplified by the ritual of buying tickets, choosing what to wear, treating yourself to some popcorn and sweets – so much so that for two thirds of returning cinemagoers, the experience is about much more than just watching the film (65%).

Looking forward

These findings and post-lockdown box office takings paint a positive picture for cinema, but will it last once we get back into the momentum of more normal life? Our data suggests it will, with three quarters of cinemagoers planning to go to the cinema the same amount or more often over the next six months than they did in the six months before Covid-19 (75%).

Results in this post are based on research conducted by Old Salt for DCM in August 2021. The research comprised a 15 minute online survey among 2,002 UK adults aged 16+, nationally representative in terms of age, gender, region and social grade. More findings from this survey can be found in DCM’s The 2021 Cinema audience report, available on its website or to download here.