Following the Covid-19 pandemic, the movie industry is still struggling to reach the high cinema attendances that they were previously recording.
According to the European Audiovisual Observatory, cinemas in Europe and the UK received 643 million admissions in 2022, however, in 2019, pre-pandemic, these cinemas received admissions totaling 1.007 billion. Although the 2022 figure was 63% higher than 2021, it was still a long way off the pre-pandemic levels. This is despite the release of big box office titles including Avatar: The Way of Water, Top Gun: Maverick, and several Marvel films.
This trend is attributable to a combination of high prices and the attraction of streaming services, which both dissuade potential customers. It has recently become catastrophic for the world’s second-largest cinema chain Cineworld, which was forced to enter administration in July 2023 facing $5bn of debt.
How could the movie industry use the metaverse?
The CEOs of major film production companies hope that the metaverse will transform falling box office numbers and change how movies are made and audiences view the final product.
One idea is that the movie making process could be transformed with the metaverse. For example, the new method could be used to make storyboarding easier, with it being done entirely in the metaverse, with intricate 3D mapping and more interactive and fluid production processes. Animators and illustrators will be able to collaborate in real-time, altering backgrounds or camera set-ups with as much ease as Minecraft players. This time reduction will save the production teams time and money, while also allowing better communication, which can allow more creative and better-produced films.
The metaverse could also solve the movie industry issue of the dwindling cinema admission numbers. As streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video continue to release their own films, the number of cinema-goers has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels. The metaverse would allow situations where films can be screened within a virtual world, allowing people who cannot meet in person the chance to have the cinematic experience together, while physically being in different locations.
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However, it looks like this will not be possible anytime soon and it will require flexibility from actors and directors. This 360-degree live-action type of film was recently attempted by Google, titled HELP, though it received negative reviews due to the poor viewing experience as viewers claimed that they could only see half the story. Once the formula for creating these 360-degree live-action films is successful, however, a more diverse cinematic option will improve viewer enjoyment and attract more visitors to cinemas again.
Is the metaverse the answer?
As the metaverse is still a very conceptual idea, with very little evidence of how it fully works, it is hard to fully assess whether the metaverse will be a serious solution. The ideas that are being thrown around sound promising, especially around the preparation of the films.
However, currently, the films made for the metaverse are not clear and easy enough for the viewers. The cinema industry needs immediate solutions, so for the time being, it is unlikely that the metaverse will be a lifeline for the dying movie industry.