Hit film producer Jason Cloth knows what can lift the spirits of cinema audiences depressed by the grim world of Covid-19. “People are afraid, they’re tired,” says the 54-year-old Canadian, who is one of the industry’s biggest private financiers. “If we can truly give them some uplifting escapism, they will go back.”

With a string of box office successes to his name, Cloth has a record of understanding what audiences want. His biggest success was the 2019 film Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix as Batman’s nemesis. He says he put up 25 per cent of the reported $64m cost of the movie which took more than $1bn at box offices worldwide, making it one of the most profitable comic-book productions of all time.

Cloth questions whether that film, which was criticised for its violence, would still be a hit in today’s bleaker times. “Would Joker have done as well if it had been released after people had been battered and bruised through this pandemic?” But musicals and family shows are a different matter — they could attract the big audiences “more than they might have a year ago”, he says.

Joker’s success seems an age away for a sector that has suffered globally this year from cinemas closing, audiences staying away and studios postponing shoots and delaying releases, including the latest James Bond movie No Time To Die, which had been scheduled to open this spring but is now set for April next year.

Joaquin Phoenix in ‘Joker’, which cost $64m and made over $1bn at the box office
Joaquin Phoenix in ‘Joker’, which cost $64m and made over $1bn at the box office © Warner Bros Entertainment

Box office revenues worldwide were down 64 per cent year-on-year over the weekend of September 12-13 (the latest for which data was available at the time of writing) on average across 45 countries analysed by the