Watching closely

Mexican cinemas grapple with combined challenge of COVID-19 and streaming.

There can’t be anyone more eagerly awaiting the release of James Bond’s ‘No Time to Die’ than the Mexican cinema industry. 2019 was a record year, with profits exceeding MXN 18,659 million after a decade of continued growth. However, this trend was upended by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, with mobility restrictions limiting film theatre capacity resulting in an 83% decrease in profits in 2020, which amounted to MXN 3,153.

COVID-19-related restrictions were also key for the booming of streaming platforms in the country, which registered a 35% growth in 2020. At present, there are 23 streaming platforms in Mexico compared to the 15 available prior to the outbreak of the pandemic. Throughout the last year, 29 Mexican films premiered for release via streaming platforms. 

Will blockbuster releases save the Mexican cinema industry or has the rise of streaming under COVID-19 damaged the industry irreparably?

An executive at a Mexican cinema chain remained concerned, “We have been one of the most affected sectors by the pandemic and people are still terrified of going to the movies, it feels like the old days will never return. The cinemas that have reopened in Latin America are being limited to 50% capacity. Not many businesses can survive a year fully closed and then limited to 50% occupancy but we’re still here.”

“We have been one of the sectors most affected by the pandemic and people are still terrified of going to the movies, it feels like the old days will never return.”

Executive, Mexican cinema chain

In Latin America, box office revenue fell by 82.2% over 2020, amounting to USD 300 million. Mexico registered the highest slowdown in the region followed by Brazil, also in the region of 83%; Argentina 82.1%. 

A former bank analyst covering the sector commented, “CINEPOLIS and CINEMEX present serious risks in their numbers, the latter has already closed more than 150 cinemas and this will rise to 200 in the coming weeks. The difference is that CINEPOLIS, which is one of the 5 largest movie theatre companies in the world, is a company of movie lovers who know the industry inside out, CINEMEX was absorbed into Grupo Mexico, a large conglomerate, so there are more stakeholders with different agendas.”

“CINEPOLIS and CINEMEX present serious risks in their numbers, the latter has already closed more than 150 cinemas and this will rise to 200 in the coming weeks.”

Former bank analyst, Mexico

Looking to the future, the road to recovery looks difficult to the cinema chain executive, “New releases and pandemic laggards, such as James Bond, will inject life into the sector but there are still limitations on premieres, schedules and capacities. Also, cinema is probably the most expensive art to make so the relationship will need to change between the distributors and the movie houses if the industry is going to survive.”

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