I remember very well how in 2020 when all the cultural institutions in Estonia were closed, I thought every time I walked by the Kosmos cinema: oh, how much would I love to be inside there right now. Unfortunately, the closures caused by the coronavirus have altered people's consumption habits, and the fact is that I go to the cinema less often than before, ERR's Kultuur portal editor Kaspar Viilup writes.
Statistics published last week showed that the number of visitors to cinemas in Estonia was so low last year that it was even lower than the figure ten years ago.
Of course, the conditions in 2021 were not favorable, since for a long time cinemas were completely closed or open under special conditions, but the fact that people simply do not bother to go to the movies anymore will undoubtedly play a role.
Whoever wants to be lazy about it can be, but instead, it is just seen as a comfort.
In the meantime, when all the cultural institutions were closed, new entertainment formats had to be found. There are actually a lot of options, from reading books to putting together puzzles, but one of the most accessible options is undoubtedly all kinds of audiovisual entertainment.
The availability of movies and series has also improved significantly in recent years: Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime and Apple TV + are also gaining market share.
In addition to paid channels, Jupiter (ERR free online film and series platform-ed.) certainly plays an important role in bringing a diverse set of series and movies home for free.
So when you get home after a hard day's work and start thinking about what to do with your evening, you watch so many different options on the TV that you can be confused.
The situation in this area is not getting any better, because this year Disney Plus and HBO Max will be added to the list of streaming platforms mentioned above, which will further expand the possibilities. But where does cinema fit in this equation?
It's sad to say that, but for many people, it probably doesn't. People's time after work is relatively limited, so if you take a break from sleeping, going shopping, eating, and just spending time lazily, there are only a couple of hours left.
However, there are an insane number of competitors for this short window of time: go to an exhibition, read a book, go to the theater, go to the cinema or anything else.
However, as we know, people do just as much as they need and as little as possible, so going to the cinema is not as popular of an option for many people.
There is no way to replace the theater or exhibitions, but Netflix is a perfect substitute for the cinema in an emergency, if you turn off the lights, turn on the sound and cook the popcorn yourself. In addition, watching a movie at home is simply cheaper.
What I'm trying to say is that it is very difficult for cinemas to break through the wall of comfort that has been created in the meantime. For big blockbusters, the situation is not so hopeless. However, the situation is more complicated with smaller films and Estonian documentaries.
It is certain that cinemas will not die out once and for all, but due to changed habits, some adjustments must be made to the cinema market soon. On the one hand, it is gratifying that Estonian film distribution is so rich and diverse, but on the other hand, there is already a situation where most films simply no longer reach their viewers through cinema.
However, this does not mean that these viewers do not exist: Many of them just sit comfortably on their couch and are ready to wait for a month or two, for example, to buy the same movie for three euros from a virtual video rental. Is there a reason to judge it? Not really.
Editor: Roberta Vaino