Cinema bosses pin hopes on pirates and pandas to lift gloom
CINEMA bosses are praying that a summer of big-budget blockbuster movies will provide a shot in the arm for business, after a quiet opening to 2011.
Thought-provoking Oscar-winning offerings such as 'The King's Speech' and 'Black Swan' proved popular with critics, but overall the industry experienced a weak start to the year.
The number of people opting to visit the movies dropped, with the Irish box office grossing €42m between January 1 and May 23 -- down by 15pc from the same period last year.
So far, the highest grossing film of 2011 has been 'The King's Speech', at €2.8m, whereas last year there were eight films that grossed more -- including 3D films 'Avatar' and 'Toy Story 3', which both raked in around €6m.
Now the cinema industry is banking on a number of hotly anticipated films to bring overall attendance figures up this summer.
Blockbuster movies include 'Pirates of the Caribbean IV' and the next Harry Potter instalment out in July, and several other sequels to popular films such as 'The Hangover II', 'Kung Fu Panda 2' and the next 'Twilight' movie.
The first of these, 'Pirates of the Caribbean IV', had taken €844,108 by the end of its first weekend alone.
Lucy Jones, the director of client services at Rendtrak EDI which collates the box-office figures, said numbers were down but predicted the blockbuster season would get more bums on seats.
"We are down by 15pc on 2010 at this stage, but there are obviously some seriously big films such as 'Pirates of the Caribbean IV' and the next Harry Potter," she said.
"These will do very well and should bring numbers up."
However, according to Mark Sheridan, film editor of the website entertainment.ie, cinema goers were being turned off by current trends.
These included expensive tickets, gimmicky 3D films and a lack of quality movies for an adult audience.
"Things can't get any worse," he said. "In March there were very few films for adults. There were just a lot of kids' movies which did not do as well as was expected for Irish cinemas. Movies such as 'Hop' were expected to do much better than they did, which was disappointing for the industry.
"I believe people are a bit put off by the prices of tickets for 3D movies which are usually €2 or €3 more expensive than regular tickets. This might be what is keeping people away from Irish cinemas."
James Cameron's epic 'Avatar', he says, was the "make-or-break" film for 3D and once the movie industry saw how successful it was they all "jumped on the bandwagon".
The sci-fi hit took in a massive €6.1m in Ireland last year, much of which was fuelled by repeat views.
This year more than 18 3D releases are expected to hit Irish screens.
"There are a huge amount of 3D movies coming out. The biggest will definitely be 'Green Lantern' which is expected to do very well. It is a Warner Brothers movie, shot in 3D with a budget north of €200m, so that is going to be a big deal," he said.
However, the film critic believes smaller movies such as 'Bridesmaids', the femme version of a rude and crude boys-gone-wild comedy, and 'The Hangover II', which opened last weekend, are going to be true big hits of the summer.
"'The Hangover II' grossed about $100m (€70m) in its first weekend in the US, and is anticipated to do very well here too. 'Bridesmaids' has been doing huge business, and I predict will be the sleeper hit this summer," he said.
Eoin Wright, general manager with Carlton Screen Advertising, which advertises at 426 screens in Ireland, said he remained "optimistic" that the drop in admissions would be rectified by an increase during the summer months.
"We are predicting to recover from this drop by the end of the year due to the strength of the film products. We are optimistic," he said.