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Are streaming services killing Cinema?

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Facade of the venue where the 74th Cannes Film Festival is taking place in 2021
The 74th Cannes Film Festival takes place from July 6 – 17th, at the French Riviera. | Photo: Marcio Delgado

On its second week, the Cannes Film Festival is a reminder that large in-person events can be hosted in the new normal that is a post-pandemic world. Despite COVID-19 still looming in several countries, its organisers decided to go ahead with the festival by introducing restrictions. Mandatory face masks during all film sessions and putting in place a dedicated Covid test centre providing free tests for all attendees. Remarkably these compulsory tests have returned an average of only three positive cases per day since the festival got underway on July 6th.

The biggest film festival in the world, currently on its 74th edition, is a reminder that there is life beyond our TVs and digital devices in a time when traditional Cinema and streaming services are fighting, daily, for their audiences’ attention.

After 15 months of Netflix, Amazon TV or Apple filling the gap of closed cinemas, can streaming services and cinemas now coexist in 2021 and beyond?

For American filmmaker Spike Lee, who is the President of the Cannes Festival jury this year, things should move back to normal post-pandemic. In the same way people have been making a choice between TV and the big screens since moving pictures were introduced, people will be left with the same dilemma post-Covid.

“Cinema and screening platforms can coexist. At one time, there was a thinking that TV was going to kill cinema. This stuff is not new.” – Lee reminded everyone at a press conference held during the Cannes Film Festival.

For screenwriter Terence O’Toole, cinema as we once knew it no longer exists. And that process might have started way before the first case of coronavirus was spotted in China at the end of 2019.

“I think cinema will survive. But it will now be more of an art house experience – like our current fascination with vinyl records and film cameras. We will continue to need cultural touchpoints that we can look back at as we move forward. Just very recently, Quentin Tarantino purchased the historic Vista Theatre on Sunset Boulevard in Los Feliz and hopefully, historic movie places like this will survive and thrive as so many talented individuals still love and support the medium. Hopefully, the community experience of watching a film in a dark theatre will never vanish.” – believes O’Toole.

The reason people are staying away from screenings may have as much to do with their pockets as it has with a fear of catching a virus.

“For people in their 30s and older, there is a nostalgia of going to the movies. But that nostalgia now ends with ticket prices and the cost of a drink and popcorn. One movie ticket now costs more than a monthly subscription to a streaming service, and a drink and a popcorn for one costs more than the ticket. Taking a date or the family to the movies could cost more than a streaming service for six-months.” – Says Andrew Selepak, Director of a Master’s program in Social Media at University of Florida.

Convenience also plays a big part in the decision process, as Selepak explains: “With streaming platforms, if we don’t like a movie we have just started watching we can easily exit out and find a new one. It doesn’t cost anything more than our monthly subscription. We can even watch a trailer for the film before we start watching it and decide we don’t want to see it and save time. I believe that, for younger people, movies don’t have the same romanticization that they do for people in their 30s and older. This is partly because of the excess of sequels, prequels, and remakes. Besides, we now have big TVs at home – and if we need to pause a movie to get food, use the bathroom, or look up the name of that actor we can’t remember, we can do it without feeling guilty about disturbing others.” – advocates Andrew, whose academic specialisation is in popular culture and media.

Cannes Film Festival has been fighting the corner of films being released as they used to be: in the cinemas. In 2017, the event allowed two Netflix films, Bong Joon-ho’s Okja and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories, enter their competition for the first time ever. However, the festival then declared that, starting in 2018, all competition films must receive a theatrical release in France. As premiering a film in the cinemas, instead of exclusively for their paying subscribers, didn’t make much sense for an online service, Netflix decided not to return to Cannes.

The show went on for both parties, though. Netflix added more than 36 million new subscribers in 2020 to pass 200 million subscribers worldwide. On the other side, Cannes film festival received over 2500 films willing to compete for a coveted Palm D’or. Only 24 of those submitted movies, less than 1%, made it to the official competition selection.

As long as people continue to pay for streaming services, it is likely that film studios will continue to release media on streaming platforms in order to reach as many viewers as possible.

As lockdown restrictions for entertainment venues comes to an end, it will be interesting to see if people will leave their houses and make a come-back to the cinemas – or if streaming will become our preferred way to watch films, moving forward.

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Fund to launch and grow a business will help black entrepreneurs in the UK

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Blacl barber looks after a client and his business
Applications are open for funding of up to £15,000 for the most innovative new business ideas and exciting existing companies in the UK 

Future 100 Growth Fund, a programme backing Black British entrepreneurs to launch and grow their businesses is now open for applications. The £1m partnership between Europe’s leading media and entertainment company, Sky, and the newly launched independent civil rights group, the Black Equity Organisation (BEO), aims to provide funding and support over three years to help overcome the significant barriers faced by young Black entrepreneurs in Britain when setting up businesses.

“We want to share our platform and capability to create lasting change for Black British entrepreneurs. We are pleased to be working with BEO to provide direct assistance and advice from Sky to help make the UK a great place for Black businesses.” – celebrated Dana Strong, CEO of the Sky’s Group. The company has made £30 million commitment to tackle structural inequality and make a difference in communities impacted by racism.

Driving economic empowerment and equity of opportunity for Black people and businesses is one of six key areas Black Equity Organisation will focus on. Research has highlighted that in the 10 years between 2009-19, only 0.24% of the total invested in UK start-ups from venture capital funding went to Black entrepreneurs. Just 0.02% went to Black female entrepreneurs.

Besides offering funding of up to £15,000 for the most innovative new business ideas and exciting existing companies, the initiative aims to create a network of mentors and community organisations to advise and assist new enterprises through direct financial support and products nurturing talent and innovation.

”The Future 100 Growth Fund will back the next generation of Black founders to thrive and succeed. We can’t wait to see what the applicants achieve through this programme as they drive growth across their businesses and for the UK economy.” – says Dame Vivian Hunt, Chair of Trustees at Black Equity Organisation.

The programme is open to applicants between 18 and 30 years old of Black African, Black Caribbean, Black British and/or Mixed-race descent who are UK residents. The fund will support Black entrepreneurs who are looking to bring a business concept to life, have a fledgling business that they want to scale or have the beginnings of a thriving business.

To find out more about the Future 100 programme and for details on how to apply visit the project here.

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Hospitality industry in the UK threatened by staff shortages

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Two housekeepers making a hotel bed
Housekeepers are expected to receive a 7.4% pay rise, but UK businesses still struggle to recruit staff | Photo: Liliana Drew

The hospitality and leisure sector’s post-pandemic recovery, in the UK, could be severely hampered by the lack of staff, a new report from a British bank has revealed.

“UK Hospitality’s Next Challenge”, a study from Barclays Corporate Banking, shows that the release of pent-up consumer demand for socialising, holidays and experiences following the pandemic has given a boost to the sector. Over three quarters (77%) of H&L operators are confident of growth this year, and had predicted an average 30.5% uplift in revenue compared with pre-pandemic levels. This equates to a £36bn² rise in annual turnover over 2019, and a £54bn increase on 2021.

However, the predicted growth could be stifled by soaring supplier costs and a scramble for talent. Hospitality and leisure businesses report that their transport costs have already spiked by over 38% year-on-year on average, and their utility bills by 37%.

Meanwhile, over nine in 10 (94%) hospitality and leisure businesses are struggling to recruit personnel, with vacancies for cleaning staff (20%), front of house staff (18%), and delivery staff (16%) causing the most issues. There are particularly acute shortages of cleaners in the East Midlands and the East of England (28%).

Almost a fifth (16%) of bars and restaurants are finding it difficult to hire waiting staff, and over two fifths of gyms and leisure centres (42%) cannot find fitness instructors. Recruitment issues also extend to back-of-house and C-suite roles: 17% of operators are having trouble sourcing finance staff and 16% said the same about senior management positions.

“Crucially for the industry, our research shows that talent shortages are also a major concern, with businesses in every vertical finding it challenging to fill their vacancies. It means there is now an added imperative for hospitality and leisure firms to find new and novel ways to recruit, reward and retain their staff.” – says Mike Saul, Head of Hospitality and Leisure at Barclays Corporate Banking.

Hospitality and leisure operators are already establishing new incentives to recruit and retain talent, including permanent work flexibility, the introduction of bonuses, and an increase in staff welfare budgets.

Almost one in five employers (19%) have also increased wages given to staff. Senior managers are set to receive the biggest boost to their pay packets, with an average increase of 7.7% – equivalent to £2,014 a year for a full-time worker. Delivery riders, housekeepers and kitchen staff are also expected to see their wages rise in 2022.

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Contemporary artist Demit Omphroy partners with GAP for NTF collection

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Artists Demit Omphroy on the streets
Partnership: the limited-edition is Demit Omphroy’s first digital series of NFTs | Photo: Instagram

Contemporary artist and former professional soccer player Demit Omphroy is partnering with GAP for its third collection of limited-edition non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

As the brand, founded in 1969, continues to explore new channels to engage customers in the rapidly evolving digital ecosystem, this spring, Demit launched a limited-edition graphic tee collection featuring his unique and recognizable work, and now the artist is launching his first NFTs with Gap. Demit’s art depicts life through vibrant colors and an expressionistic style, seeing the world through his inner child.  

“My work is playful, expressive, and simplistic, yet loaded with emotion. Being able to express myself through a new digital medium and collaborate with Gap, one of the most iconic brands in history, is exciting for me as a creator.” – celebrates the American artist who is also a citizen of Panama and the Philippines through descent.

On June 15, the One of a Kind digital auction will begin, featuring single edition digital art and a custom, hand-painted Gap denim jacket by Demit.  

In July, Gap x DOGAMÍ NFT wearables will launch as the first fashion collaboration in the petaverse. Digital Gap logo hoodies specifically designed for DOGAMÍ avatars will engage players to express their virtual pet’s individual style that will have a direct impact on game stats. 

“Partnering with unique artists and creators is a cornerstone of our NFT program,” – says Chris Goble, Chief Product Officer at Gap. “We are thrilled to collaborate with Demit and to create this vibrant collection of NFTs and product that amplifies his voice and represents his distinct individual style.”  

The Gap Threads marketplace and DOGAMÍ are both built on Tezos, a more energy efficient blockchain, allowing for minimal energy consumption and a low carbon footprint. Customers can also join Gap’s Discord server to connect, engage, and foster a community with other fans of Gap NFTs. The Discord server can be accessed at discord.gg/gapthreads.

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