Analysis reveals that the pandemic has dealt cinema operators a new blow, though the solution remains somewhat familiar, and that co-living proves surprisingly resistant to COVID.

A horror show for cinema operators

After a five-month hiatus most of the major US cinema chains, including AMC, Cinemark, Regal and Marcus Theaters, reopened at the end of last month. Expectations were fairly low, with a mid-August survey conducted by data intelligence company Morning Consultant finding that only 17 per cent of consumers felt comfortable returning to the movies, a 3 per cent drop from July. Another study – this time of self-described cinephiles – by ticketing app service Atom Tickets found that enthusiasts were far more willing to venture back, with 74 per cent saying they’ll likely return within a month. A significant minority (34 per cent) expected venues to keep empty seats free between patrons, however, something that will severely limit venues’ ability to break even. But it’s not all bad news. Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, the first of the summer’s postponed blockbusters to be released, generated $53 million USD internationally in its opening weekend.

That’s a ‘robust’ figure given the circumstances according to industry analysts, though far down on original projections. The challenge for the cinema industry is that returning to the status quo isn’t good enough. Cinema attendance was already declining in key markets such as the US, EU and India pre-pandemic, though China was a rare bright spot. The increasing prevalence of video-on-demand services has been a key factor here.

Indeed a mid-May poll by Performance Research found that 70 per cent of US consumers would now rather watch a first-run movie at home than in the cinema, with 10 per cent saying they would never return. In many ways the solution is much the same as it was pre-COVID: forget the low-price, high-footfall model and instead premiumize the experience far beyond what’s available to people in their own living rooms. If you want to see what that means in terms of design and programme, we’ve covered several projects (all notably in cinema’s one current growth market) over the last year, from Shenzhen to Xi’an to Changsha.

Co-living lives on

When in June we hosted our #FrameLive talk on the ways in which housing might change post-COVID, Cutwork cofounder Kelsea Crawford continued to insist that ‘the future is shared.’ As the architects behind one of Europe’s preeminent co-living developments, some might have struggled to believe this was more than bias. Surely, at a time when personal space is considered a necessity rather than a luxury, sharing with others by intention was not high on the agenda? In fact, based on the data, it turns out Crawford’s sentiment is fairly popular. A new study by Ipsos MORI for developer St Modwen shows that 35 per cent of Gen Z are now interested in living in this way. They may find it hard to grab a space when they come of age. As it turns out, very few of those already invested in co-living have abandoned the lifestyle since the pandemic hit.

Founder of co-living brand Common, Brad Hargreaves told Business Insider that he had feared the worst; instead, the brand’s occupancy rates held at 90 per cent, down just 8 per cent from the start of the year, and they added a record number of new leases for a single month in June. Common currently has an inventory of 3,000 bedrooms in the US and another 16,000 in development. It looks like they will need them. Hargreaves pinned the surge in interest on co-living’s favourable cost-to-quality ratio at a time of economic uncertainty.

It appears to be a similar story in London, which has seen a 136 per cent year-on-year rise in enquiries from young couples seeking one-bedroom rentals within shared properties according to research by Built Asset Management (BAM). Though the data covers a 12-month period, it registered a significant spike once property markets reopened earlier this summer.

‘Economic factors are undoubtedly at work, with co-living offering an affordable option to renters seeking high-end accommodation, without the expense that comes with a single-let unit,’ says director of BAM, Alex Gibbs. For Andrew Purdon, a senior director at CBRE, the long-term viability of the model isn’t just based on affordability, however. ‘Co-living is more than a housing product and its appeal to residents is built on a change in the way people are choosing to live. There has been a steady shift in human behaviours and desires during the past few years; people are choosing community, wellbeing, sustainability and experiences. The world has pivoted even more strongly towards these ideals during the pandemic.’