The unlikely double bill of Barbie and Oppenheimer which came out in July brought the masses back to UK cinemas in a much-needed financial injection for movie theatres, but the sector remains far from a full recovery.

Barbenheimer landed too late to save the Empire Cinema chain, five of whose complexes have today been purchased out of administration by Ireland's Omniplex Cinema group. Among those properties changing hands is the Empire Cinema in Clydebank.

Others larger rivals such as Cineworld and Vue continue to toil under the burden of debts racked up in the first instance by an M&A frenzy in the years prior to the pandemic, followed by mounting liabilities while the industry was forced to close during the Covid pandemic. 

READ MORE: Empire Clydebank cinema bought out of administration

This paved the way for streaming services to become the leading source of film entertainment. A lot of effort is now going into rebuilding "event cinema", but it's an uphill struggle as the cost-of-living crisis has slashed consumers' disposable incomes.

As if those demand-side issues weren't enough, UK cinemas are also suffering a lack of supply - there are simply not enough movies coming out to keep a steady stream of customers coming in. 

Despite the release of multiple blockbusters this year will see the total volume of films released down by about a fifth compared to pre-Covid, and the situation isn't expected to improve with on-going writers' and actors' strikes in the US causing delays in the production pipeline that have for the most part still to work their way through.

READ MORE: Cineworld reveals it will file for administration in July

According to UK-based research firm Ampere Analytics, the content deficit is set to become apparent to audiences next year.

The first major movie to be affected by the strikes was Deadpool 3, which was forced to suspend filming in July. Originally scheduled to come out in May, the release date has been pushed back to July 2024.

The stakes are high for all involved, but the cinemas are arguably cast in the most precarious position in this script. It will be compelling viewing as the story continues to unfold.