Opinion – Pavilion manager Andrew Poole asks where’s Bond when you need him?

I grew up with James Bond. I was only two when Live And Let Die was released in cinemas so I likely only saw the first few Roger Moore Bond’s on reruns – when that was a thing (said with a sense of irony when the current line up at the Pavilion is heavily reliant on reruns just to try and get customers in).

Friday, 16th October 2020, 11:31 am
Updated Friday, 16th October 2020, 12:41 pm
Andrew Poole, owner of the Pavilion Cineman in Galashiels, says Cineworld’s decision to close all its cinemas has forced distributors to postpone the release of blockbuster films such as James Bond movie No Time To Die, with Daniel Craig, above, indefinitely.

The car chases, the jet packs, the amphibious cars, the shootouts and Desmond Llewelyn’s gadgets was what made movies magic to a young boy.

I completely understand how fond people are of Sean Connery’s Bond’s, but I’ve always struggled to enjoy them. I think the first new Bond film I remember seeing in the cinema when it was first released was For Your Eyes Only (1981).

As a family we started showing films in cinemas and local towns halls around the Borders in the late 1970’s, so we’ve been running Bond films as long as I can recall.

The first Bond film we ran at the Pavilion in Galashiels was Goldeneye (1995) with Pierce Brosnan.

Every single Bond film since then has taken more at the Pavilion’s box office than the previous Bond film.

Skyfall (2012) took approximately double the box office of Casino Royale (2006).

Pre-covid, No Time To Die would have generated about 8,000 admissions for us. If the film had been released this November our estimate would have been closer to three or four thousand.

In truth, I’d rather have a proper crack at NTTD next year when hopefully Covid is having less of an impact on everyone’s lives and we have less – or no – social distancing.

It’s easy to blame Universal (the studio distributing NTTD in the UK) for crashing the entire UK Cinema industry, but the truth is, the cut runs deeper than losing one film.

Since lockdown started in March, over 30 films which we would have run at the Pavilion have been moved to either later in the year, 2021/22, or worse still, released on video on demand.

Blockbuster films like Peter Rabbit 2, Black Widow, Wonder Woman 1984, Dune and Top Gun Maverick all moved to future dates. And films I would really have liked a good crack at in the Pavilion which have gone straight to streaming include Trolls World Tour, SCOOB!, Soul and of course Disney’s live action remake of Mulan.

We can just about survive on non-blockbuster films, but even those are being pulled and moved to next year.

I accept that all cinemas are operating at reduced capacity – safety measures in the Pavilion mean we are operating at about 25% of normal capacity – but the truth is the majority of films released into cinemas do not require 100% capacity.

Films like A Quiet Place II, The Secret Garden, Dream Horse and Greenland would have ran perfectly fine without full capacity.

You just need to look at Christopher Nolan’s Tenet; £15m at the UK box office and still No1 after six weeks.

Much respect is owed to Mr Nolan for throwing his hat in the ring and supporting the worldwide exhibition industry in what was a very risky move, and one which is likely to result in a global net loss on that film.

Add into the mix that Cineworld has just closed all their cinemas in the UK and the USA. This is a big deal!

Cineworld group represent 20% of all US and UK cinema screens. Their closing will do nothing to encourage distributors to release films into the market, knowing that a fifth of cinemas in the UK and USA are closed.

Indeed, a couple of weeks ago, just as we were putting the finishing touches to the program to start that Friday, we lost two films. Pulled purely because of Cineworld’s closing.

The Pavilion extends our best wishes to the Cineworld staff who have lost their jobs in this. Cinema staff the world over are incredibly dedicated individuals who share one thing in common; a love for film.

It’s extremely sad to see the devastating effect of this virus on people inside my own industry.

I won’t sugar coat it, the future is bleak.

Until the distributors start releasing more new films all cinemas will struggle. There are recovery support packages for independent cinemas in England, Wales and Scotland.

These are critical because the majority of cinema owners I’ve spoken to the past few weeks are reporting admissions are down 90%.

The Pavilion is no different. That’s not sustainable without significant support, so I’m very pleased that support is available for our sector, although I’d imagine if you speak to any cinema owner

receiving ‘support’ they’d rather Covid had never been a thing and we were all just able to trade normally.

Before we closed in March we were tracking 20% up on the previous year. And we were looking forward to a different struggle; with Peter Rabbit 2, Trolls World Tour and No Time To Die all opening within a week of each other, we were quite genuinely going to be running out of seats.

There is still an appetite for the Big Screen experience.

It is not possible to recreate the buzz of 300 people all laughing at the same joke or jumping at the same scary bit in your own living room – no matter how big your telly is.

Cinemas are also more than just a cinema, we’re entertainment venues, we’re cultural outlets, we’re social hubs, we’re where you go on your first date, where you bring your kids to see the latest Disney film, where you go to escape the kids when time permits.

And we feed into the local dining economy.

It warms my heart to hear from local restaurant owners when they tell me they’re “sold out” of tables all weekend – and it’s because the film we’re showing is feeding customers to them.

Without cinemas, would the entire night-time economy of town centres collapse?

Perhaps that’s a bit melodramatic, but would you want to risk it?

The fact is we all rely on each other and it remains to be seen how the most recent restrictions on local restaurants will affect the Pavilion, given their evening opening has been severely curtailed – temporarily.

We’ve worked hard to ensure the business is well placed to survive this crisis.

And at the Pavilion with your continued support we will survive this.

We have no plans to make any staff redundant. We’re still open, we’re still showing films, and we’ll continue to do so, albeit some weeks we will only be open at the weekends.

I fear we’re facing a cold winter. But there’s one way to warm your heart this winter.

Go see a film at your local cinema. You won’t be disappointed.