Odeon sees Christmas boom as Avatar 2 lures Brits back to the big screen
Odeon, the UK’s largest cinema chain, welcomed over a million viewers during Christmas thanks to the much anticipated Avatar sequel.
Cinemas in the UK have started 2023 on a high note after two rough years, according to new numbers released by Odeon. The return of viewers to the big screen was credited to the release of the Avatar sequel, which has hit over £1bn in box office numbers and has been ranked as 2022’s biggest hit.
The sequel, which follows up on the 2009 blockbuster, was 2022’s most viewed 3D film and has been termed the biggest 3D film release post-pandemic.
The welcome boost comes as the cinema industry continues its post-pandemic recovery. According to the DCM, cinema visits almost doubled last year, with 145m Brits making a trip to the big screen last year compared to 74m in 2021.
Brits were encouraged to return to the cinema over the festive season with special screenings of Christmas classics like Elf and The Snowman. Odeon analysts said that the high visitor numbers were supported by strong turnout for Matilda the Musical and Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody.
The boost comes as welcome news after a grim 2021 Christmas season for cinemas and cinemagoers alike, when Covid-19 concerns kept visitors at home. In late 2022, Cineworld forecasted box office sales would remain below pre-pandemic levels until 2025.
Commenting on the good start to the new year, Carol Welch, Odeon managing director UK & Ireland, said: “We look forward to 2023 with optimism – there is a varied and strong slate of new releases this month for every taste and the return of Oscar winners to the big screen to get excited for in the run-up to awards season this spring.”
Accounting for the last minute ticket sale, the Guardian reported that cinemas would rake in almost £950m in 2022. But the number still remains 30 per cent below the pre-pandemic levels of 2018.
This comes after UK-based Cineworld filed for bankruptcy protection in the US after failing to almost to nearly in debt and lease liabilities. Earlier in the year, Vue was forced to go through a major financial restructure, wiping out equity holders.
However, lead equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown Sophie Lund-Yates advised caution.
“The enormous fixed costs that come from running a cinema chain, together with the huge debt piles many of the big names are lugging around, makes current conditions highly challenging. Sadly, one popular film won’t be enough to iron out all the bumps in the road,” she told City A.M.