Blog Video

BarbenHeimer needs to usher in media fusion to fully revitalise cinema

Cover image for BarbenHeimer needs to usher in media fusion to fully revitalise cinema

Photo: Oscar Ävalos

Photo of Tim Mulligan
by Tim Mulligan

In many ways the 96th Academy Awards was positioned as the critical confirmation of last year’s double blockbuster performances of Oppenheimer and Barbie. Collectively, these titles generated $2.4 billion at the box office in 2023 and were heralded as announcing the return of cinema to the heart of the cultural zeitgeist. Appropriately enough, the titles also drew in a cumulative ten Oscars, nine being for Oppenheimer thatincluded Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Cinematography (Barbie had to make do with Best Original Song). While allocating 39% of all the available Oscars to Oppenheimer might appear excessive, the cultural impact of Oppenheimer and Barbie was sufficiently powerful to have materialised into BarbenHeimer, the meme that took hold of the internet last summer. However, cultural heft and engagement are not the same and the BarbenHeimer boost is starting to fade as film returns to its secular retreat from mainstream relevance.


As the above data from Q3 2023 shows, despite the summer blockbuster onslaught of 2023, consumers by and large have not been persuaded to increase their time spent in the cinema. Only 13% stated that they had increased their cinema going in the six months leading up to Q3 2023. More problematically for the film industry, a quarter of respondents reported that their cinema-going had declined over this period. Similar rates of decline were reported for attending music concerts and live sporting events, suggesting an overall decline in the appeal of in-real-life entertainment. At the same time, movie and TV streaming in Q3 2023 accounted for 7.9 hours per week for the average consumer across tracked markets, with over a quarter spending over ten hours per week streaming TV and film.

Movies now require their DVD moment, with a little help from games


Ultimately, film is an audiovisual entertainment format with greater utility in the home than on the big screen. Simply, most consumers prefer home convenience (and cost) over the mandated appointment-to-view dictates of the cinema. In addition to this, the underlying format has not been updated since the introduction of the talkies nearly 100 years ago, and cinema needs a reboot. Despite aggressively contesting the birth of home video in the 1980s, studios have since gone to reap the benefits of an entirely new segment of home entertainment based on video, DVD, and now electronic sell-through (EST) transactions. As a result, the monetisation model of cinema has evolved to accommodate multiple differing licensing windows, and ancillary revenue streams all provided valuable long-tail income for studios.

Last month’s launch of the Apple Vision Pro is the technological innovation that can catalyse the cinematic renaissance, providing new ways of delivering media fusion experiences that transcend video, games, and music. For media majors such as Paramount and Warner Bros Discovery, finding new ways to connect with audiences and monetise their deep treasure troves of intellectual property is more important than ever.

Getting this right will decide the future of cinema.

The discussion around this post has not yet got started, be the first to add an opinion.


Add your comment