Skip to content

“It’s not the end of cinemas, but I’m very worried about them surviving this”: Helen O’Hara of Empire Magazine on the fate of the movie industry during Covid

Yorkshire Voice

by Riccardo Trono

“It’s not going to be the end of the cinema”, film journalist Helen O’Hara of Empire Magazine predicted today, “but approximately 20 per cent of the venues in the UK are still going to close because of Covid-19”.

During a live talk for Journalism and Media Week at Leeds Trinity University, Helen expressed her worries about “the cinemas and movies I love surviving this”.

Helen’s entry intro the media industry was not the conventional route as she found herself an intern at Empire Magazine after studying to be a barrister.

“If there was a time to leap, it was then,” she said. “I’d made a sensible decision to study law because I wanted to make money.

“I loved the theoretical bits of law but I just felt like I didn’t belong there, it wasn’t made for me. When I saw the opportunity to apply for the internship at Empire, I seized it immediately and it changed my life.”

Helen had this advice to students on how to write a successful film preview: “It’s all about giving a bit of the story away to your readers. There has to be a purpose to your piece, from the very first paragraphs and that’s when the work is hardest.

“In order to give that hook so that readers can cling to your story, you should be able to walk past your own prejudices when writing film previews. Objectivity is the key.”

Working as a female journalist in what she described as a “male-dominated environment”, Helen talked about the imminent realise of her book Women vs Hollywood: The Fall and Rise of Women in Film, which will be published by Little Brown Book Group Limited in February next year.

The book, which Helen described as a “wildly overambitious, sweeping look at the history of Hollywood”, is a detailed look at the role of women in the movie industry, right from its dawn. It has involved a lot of research into an area that Helen still finds “quite grim”.

“Between 1924 and 1970 plus there would be only one woman directing in Hollywood, with no woman of colour or disabled women within the industry.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t look any better nowadays. From about the 1990s to now, the percentage of women directors has climbed by maybe 4% from 8%, so the picture is not great.”

Helen described how the Covid-19 crisis had affected her work at Empire Magazine.

“Week to week on the podcast, we don’t always know which movies are coming out and we’ve been reviewing a lot more Netflix and Amazon Prime releases than we would normally do.

“After this second lockdown came on, many planned releases started running away, so it’s been such an unsettled time.

“I miss being in a cinema so much that in the sort of interregnum we had this summer I went to watch Tenet three times.”

What do you think?