After 300 days of historical closure of cinemas, from March 15 to June 21, 2020 then from October 30 to May 18, 2021, we had to face the facts: since the lifting of all health restrictions on March 14, 2022, French people are returning to see films but attendance is still far from its usual and expected levels. Before taking the necessary measures, the National Cinema Center (CNC) commissioned a first study on this burning issue and presented its first conclusions in Cannes, on the sidelines of the festival.

Since the beginning of the year, the box office has been at half mast. Theater attendance is nowhere near pre-pandemic levels. In January, the number of admissions fell by 42% compared to January 2019. While the lifting of health restrictions had its effect, the difference remains significant: – 41% in February compared to three years ago , – 30% in March and – 23% in April. With the exception of a handful of major blockbuster productions like the latest James Bond, Dying Can Wait (3.3 million admissions in 2021), Spider-Man: No Way Home (7.3 million admissions in 2021 and 2022), what the hell have we all done? (2.2 million admissions) or Retirement home, most of the box office results are disappointing.

Among operators, the concern is there. The reasons no longer seem cyclical but structural. And promising films like the last Top Gun with Tom Cruise are not numerous enough.

According to this study carried out by the Vertigo institute with a panel of 1176 spectators between May 2 and May 6, 2022, 48% declare that they have returned to the cinema less often than they used to. This change primarily concerns people aged 60 and over. Which is terrible for auteur films and art house cinemas where this is the main audience. The reasons for this disenchantment are multiple. According to the study, 38% have completely lost the desire to go to the cinema and 36% perceive the entrance ticket as too expensive. A third did not appreciate wearing a mask to watch a film, 26% of them now prefer to watch films on other media. Finally, 23% highlight the lack of interest in the films showing. The other motivations such as the anxiety-provoking news with the Russian invasion of Ukraine are significantly less important.

Depending on the age of the respondents, the motivations are the same but not in the same order. For those 60 and over, it is the loss of habit that comes first. CNC investigators were interested in the levers that could allow attendance to start up again. The desire to see a film comes far ahead. It is therefore up to the scriptwriters, directors and producers to come up with films that arouse enthusiasm. Choice of subjects, duration of works, showing new faces, giving more leading roles to actresses past forty… The list of reflections is long. “We are already working on ways to bring spectators back to the theater on a more massive scale and the study that we are disclosing today is full of lessons,” concludes Dominique Boutonnat, president of the CNC.