Watch: Sam Mendes, Olivia Colman and Micheal Ward discuss the future of cinema
Sam Mendes says the current state of multiplexes is “scary and sad” as he releases the new Empire of Light movie.
Set in a cinema in Margate in the 1980s, the film explores the unifying power of cinema alongside the themes of mental health and racism.
But Mendes, who won an Oscar for American Beauty and made two James Bond films, told Yahoo UK he had serious concerns about whether movies like Empire of Light would take place on the multiplex in the future.
Read more: Sam Mendes is calling on streamers to help keep theaters going
He said, “I think the end of smaller films is definitely coming. People say attendance is back to pre-COVID levels, but that attendance is 20-25 movies. They don’t see 200 movies.”
Mendes pointed out that theaters are increasingly focusing on high-grossing blockbusters like Avatar: The Way of Water while offering little choice outside of these huge films.
“One day I went to the cinema. Screen One: Avatar. Screen two: Avatar. Screen three: Avatar,” he said.
Mendes added: “That’s not what we invented multiplexes for, but that’s how they’ll be used now. Avatar can be viewed every half hour.
Read more: How much money does the Avatar have to make to break even?
“It’s scary and sad for me. I think the idea of a wide choice in the cinema is going away. To say anything else is to pretend it’s not happening.”
Mendes said there was “nothing better than” watching a movie on a big screen surrounded by strangers.
He added: “It’s a different experience than watching at home. It’s not better or worse. It’s just completely different and we don’t want to lose that.”
Empire of Light centers on Olivia Colman as Hilary’s theater manager who develops an unlikely romance with the facility’s new employee, Stephen (Micheal Ward).
Colman said it was “pretty depressing” to see the same movie on all the screens in the cinema, but said blockbusters played a key role in building a love for the art form.
Read more: Olivia Colman discusses working with Anthony Hopkins on The Father
She said, “My first exposure to cinema was watching Star Wars. Then as a teenager I discovered art cinema and discovered a whole new world of different types of films.
“So if I hadn’t seen the big blockbuster, maybe I never would have seen it [done that]”.
Ward agrees that blockbusters could prove to be a gateway, and Avatar viewers will likely see the Empire of Light trailer ahead of the show.
He said, “I feel like this will make a lot more people say ‘let’s go watch Empire of Light next week, it’s over now.’ I feel like it will actually help with that kind of reverse hand.”
Read more: How can we fix the multiplex cinema experience?
Empire of Light is set to be a big player in awards season, and Olivia Colman has already been nominated for Best Actress (Drama) at the Golden Globes and is likely to secure a nod in the right category at the Oscars.
Empire of Light is now in UK cinemas.
Watch: Trailer for Sam Mendes’ drama Empire of Light