Hunter cinema owners are counting on Boxing Day to reignite the industry following a tough COVID-19 impacted year.
While most complexes in the region re-opened their doors in July, after nearly a four-month shutdown, guests have been slow to return to watch their favourite actors and actresses on the big screen.
But, with touted blockbusters such as Wonder Woman: 1984 and The Croods: A New Age slated for release on December 26, the future of cinema is looking bright once again.
“Traditionally, it’s our busiest period,” Hoyts Charlestown manager Steve Cooper said.
“And, we’re hoping that’s the case later this month.
“I’m confident having content like Wonder Woman: 1984 and The Croods: A New Age will see people back at cinemas across Australia in stronger numbers.”
Both [original] movies grossed more than $1.4 billion (USD) combined at the box office – and the industry is expecting the sequels to do just as well.
“They should kick-start a new run of hits,” Mr Cooper said.
“In 2021, there is plenty of product ready to go with the likes of Fast9, Peter Rabbit 2, Black Widow, A Time To Die, Top Gun: Maverick, Ryan Reynolds’ latest Free Guy, Morbius, Boss Baby 2, The King’s Man and Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
“To be honest, 2020 has been a year of survival.
“The theatre industry’s been especially hard hit by coronavirus.
“However, we’ve seen some sessions sold out at COVID-19 capacity, which was pleasing.
“Films like Tenet, Trolls World Tour, Unhinged and Rams After have done well and we continue to witness positive results as Australians return to their weekly haunt.
“We’ve played a number of Aussie flicks and retro movies – from Die Hard to The Terminator, Alien to Predator – to provide our guests with unique opportunities to see classics on the big screen.
“While our regulars are returning, we’re eager for the content-driven crowds to come back, too.”
Mr Cooper admitted it had been a “difficult time” for the entertainment business.
“I guess we’re still seeing the effects of the United States and Europe being affected by coronavirus,” he said.
“So, in that respect, we’re reasonably lucky.
“Newcastle has certainly rallied to show its support for the industry.
“We lobbied the government and have worked closely to develop our COVID-19 protocols to open earlier – and be as safe and responsible as possible.
“Without those measures, we couldn’t survive.
“We might be a national company, but we’re supporting 40 local employees.
“That’s why JobKeeper was vital, too.”
Mr Cooper said the enforced coronavirus break had allowed Hoyts to focus its attention on its patrons’ wellbeing.
“We’re placing a huge emphasis on safe COVID-19 practices,” he explained.
“It’s important to make people feel comfortable [coming here].
“So, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.
“We’ve actually tweaked our protocols at least 35 times to stay in line with the very latest government legislature.
“Plus, every team member has been put through COVID-19 training, as encouraged by NSW Health.
“We know how important movies are to Aussie culture and how vital our guests are in keeping our industry afloat.
“We’re aware people love the movies, so we must do the right thing by them.
“We’re keen to stay ahead of the game – and tick every box.
“The industry might have been hit hard, however there are exciting times ahead.”