Cinemas are evolving: get ready to watch sport, Game of Thrones on the big screen

Cinemas look set to become event hotspots in the next decade. Picture: Pavel Danilyuk/Pexels

Cinemas look set to become event hotspots in the next decade. Picture: Pavel Danilyuk/Pexels

Published Jan 25, 2023


Imagine having gathered with friends every week to watch Game of Thrones at the cinema; or think about what it could be like to watch sport on the big screen with surround sound.

Reinventing the movie theatre in such ways could be just the thing to bring it back into fashion – and experts believe this will happen.

Even without the transformation, JSE-listed REIT Redefine Properties says an interesting trend noted over the past holiday season in South Africa, was that cinemas showed positive growth, driven mainly by specific popular content releases from Hollywood.

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Already, retail centres have had to add value to their offerings and focus on giving people experience-based visits, and Nashil Chotoki, Redefine’s national retail asset manager, says such pushes from Hollywood “may start to change the trend back towards cinemas, driven by the focus on value focused entertainment”.

And he is not alone. Entertainment experts predict that cinemas will still be viable in ten years’ time, although the experience we can expect from going to the movies will be way better than merely sitting in reclining seats and watching a movie on the big screen with surround sound. It will also give us much more than just 4D film experiences; it will give us the connection and interaction that many craved during the Covid lockdowns.

In a 2022 Entertainment Weekly article exploring what Hollywood could look like in 2032, experts explained that although streaming was the way of the future, it would not kill the theatre. Rather, going to the movies would become more of an event. The article quoted Sterlin Harjo, film and TV director and Reservation Dogs co-creator as saying he imagined theatres would embrace long-form even more.

“If I could watch Game of Thrones every week at a theatre with my friends, that'd be exciting.”

In the next decade, theatres will evolve and host social events, stated Netflix global film head Scott Stuber.

“They'll make deals with sporting leagues, so you can watch the games on weekends. Kids will go there to watch [e-game] tournaments. And there'll be a place for big-event television.”

Also last year, the New York times wrote that box office analysts found enough evidence that movie-going in the United States and Canada was “out of intensive care and headed toward something that even resembles health”. It quoted David A Goss, who runs film consultancy Franchise Entertainment Research as saying: “Every genre has re-established itself, with the exception of big animation.”

This predicted revolution of the cinema would follow the evolution of the traditional shopping centre over the past few years. Back in 2019, Gregg Huntington of Spire Property Management told IOL that people wanted experiences at retail centres, not just shops. And this was one area he said community shopping centres could remain relevant against big malls.

Of course, this was before Covid. During and following the pandemic it was the big retail centres that suffered while community and neighbourhood centres found favour with consumers. Still, the principle remains the same – people want experiences.

“Experience has shown that consumers increasingly want a shopping/retail experience...More greenery and park-like settings, increased natural light, interesting architecture, and speciality retailers are all draw-cards.”

Similarly, embracing pop culture and giving people a movie experience enhanced by community and interaction could be the best thing to ever happen to the big screen.