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Could Barbenheimer be the come-back kid for Aberdeen’s struggling cinemas?

Producer of The Inbetweeners, Chris Young, who lives on Skye, believes the two major films could see a return to a "collective experience" at our cinemas.

Barbie has caused an explosion in ticket sales. Image: Alamy/PA)
Barbie has caused an explosion in ticket sales. Image: Alamy/PA)

There’s a collective hush as the lights go down, and the crunching of popcorn pauses for the opening credits.

Faces aglow in front of the big screen, there’s nothing quite like settling down to watch a film at the cinema.

Or rather there is as it turns out, with people opting to stream films or watch Netflix from the comfort of their own home – instead of going to the movies.

Belmont Filmhouse has been a casualty of cinema closures. Image: Kenny Elrick/ DC Thomson.

From failing to bounce back post-pandemic, to the rising cost of living and fewer blockbusters in general, cinema has limped on in a sorry state of decline.

That is, until one triumphant Barbie finally got the Barbie world she always dreamed of.

Barbenheimer as coined by the internet, has seen the release of Barbie and Oppenheimer on the same day cause ticket sales to soar.

Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie at the ‘Barbie’ film premiere earlier this month. Image: Amy Muir/Shutterstock

Barbenheimer provides biggest weekend for ticket sales in four years

Vue International revealed it had the biggest weekend for UK cinema ticket sales in four years, and Barbie is on track to become the biggest film of 2023.

But why has a pinktastic plot and the making of the atom bomb succeeded where countless others have failed, and what does this mean for the future of cinema?

TV and film producer Chris Young, who is based on Skye, knows a thing or two about successful hits, as producer of channel four’s most successful comedy series, The Inbetweeners and its two film spin offs.

Blake Harrison, Simon Bird, James Buckley and Joe Thomas from the Inbetweeners; the spinoff movie broke box office records.

Released in 2011, The Inbetweeners Movie broke box office records and was the biggest ever UK opening weekend for a comedy.

He believes that Barbie and Oppenheimer can be classed as “event” films and mark a return to people wanting a collective experience.

For community cinema, social media hype may not translate however.

We caught up with Chris Young and Keith Hart, who helps run community cinema at Victoria Hall in Ellon, to find out more.

Chris Young: “It’s a collective experience.”

Chris was told that an Inbetweeners film simply wouldn’t work, before it went on to make millions and break a record in the process.

Originally big names were only interested in the DVD rights, until Nigel Green of Entertainment Film Distributors gave his backing and the movie went on to become a box office sensation.

Chris is still told by people in every day life how much they loved the film, and that they went to see it several times.

Oppenheimer has proved a massive hit, alongside Barbie. Image: Amy Katz/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock

He believes a similar desire to experience the same thing within a group in a cinema setting could now be at play.

“There is an appetite for a certain kind of film; people specifically wanted to watch Inbetweeners as a group and laugh collectively,” said Chris.

“They’d go to see it several times, with family and then say a group from work and then with friends.

“Barbie and Oppenheimer, two very different films, can remind people that they can have a different experience at the cinema in comparison to watching Netflix.”

Producer Chris Young believes cinema is on the up. Image: Ger Harley

‘Covid was a disaster for cinema’

Outside of Marvel films and comedy, Chris believes the “collective experience” has been lacking, especially post pandemic.

“Covid was a disaster for cinema, but the weird thing is that you can turn everything round with one or two films,” he said.

“It’s the concept of the event film, where people say ‘we are definitely going to see that.’

“It’s a lot like going out for a meal, there has to be a really strong reason for people spending £10/£15 to go and see a film.

“Who knew it would take Barbie and a guy who invented the atom bomb?

“It’s really exciting to see.”

Keith Hart: “Box office hits don’t necessarily do well for us.”

For Keith Hart, the hype surrounding Barbenheimer is a reminder of the importance of community cinema.

He helps to run showings at Victoria Hall in Ellon alongside his wife, Liz and fellow volunteers.

Surround sound, velvet seats and a tuck shop make for a quirky offering, and the project has received funding from various sources including Creative Scotland.

As to whether Barbenheimer will come to the Shire, Keith is undecided.

Keith Hart and his wife, Liz, help run the community cinema club at Victoria Hall, Ellon. Image: Kami Thomson / DC Thomson.

“We are at least four weeks behind the mainstream cinemas, and we find that social media hype does not always translate for our audience,” said Keith.

“Take The Little Mermaid for example, we actually had several families walk out because they felt it was too long and it did get more sinister in the second half.

“The films you would think are popular are not necessarily so, and I think that’s part of the hype of social media.

Husband and wife team,Keith and Liz Hart, select films to reflect the audience who attend showings at Victoria Hall in Ellon. Image: Kami Thomson/ DC Thomson.

“We have to look at scores from various film databases and then make a judgement.”

Far from being bad news, Keith believes Barbenheimer highlights what community cinema has to offer.

“Free parking, no need to go into Aberdeen and an element of nostalgia,” said Keith.

“The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry did very well for us, as did Operation Mincemeat and Downton Abbey.”