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THB #11: Is Day-n-Date Dying?
It’s another chilly Monday morning in Hollywood in October. And here is the question that box-office-interested people need to be asking themselves…
Can a day-n-date streaming release to the full market open to more than $36 million?
Even with the $50 million opening of Halloween Kills, it seems to be a fact that Peacock has fewer than 10 million paying customers. Did they add a million new paying customers (who can cancel within 30 days and never spend more than $10 with Peacock) because of Halloween Kills? Maybe. Good for them! Does it mean anything to the overall issue of day-n-date? Nope.
The only movie since the May relaunch of theatrical that has opened to more than $35 million when as much as 25% of the potential domestic audience had access to a home option was Black Widow. And Disney’s big brag on that was that 3 million of their 50 million or so Disney+ subscribers paid $30 to see the film at home. More than 7 million went to the movie theaters in America alone.
After that, it’s Jungle Cruise, right at the $35 million mark with almost 1 million Disney+ subs kicking in for home access. Not exactly the thing that dreams are made of.
The Kilar Klan, which had its best open with Godzilla v Kong with $32 million, which is also the only title since this day-n-date folly started with Wonder Woman 1984 to gross $100 million domestic ($100.6m to be precise).
Sixteen movies have been fed to this gaping wound of an idea and the total domestic gross has been $521 million… or less than just Joker and It: Chapter 2 in 2019 ($547 million). Eight of the sixteen titles opened under $10 million… three in the teens… three more in the 20s.
Meanwhile, three of the five biggest openings of the year have taken place in the last six weekends… the smallest of which was $55 million.
Are we into progress or masochism?
And what about this thing about “old people?” They won’t go to the movies!!!
Here is your ENTIRE list of movies aimed at an older audience that opened domestically on 2000 or more screens in 2021.
Cry Macho, In The Heights, Dear Evan Hansen, Old, Reminiscence, Respect, Those Who Wish Me Dead, The Many Saints of Newark, The Last Duel, Wrath of Man, The Green Knight, Stillwater, Nobody, The Little Things, The Night House.
Fifteen titles. Total. And six of them were buried in the HBO Max day-n-date program for the uninspired. Three more were sold as being quite violent or horror-driven. And the other six? Two poorly reviewed musicals, a great A24 high art piece, a Sundance thriller that Disney didn’t seem to give Searchlight the money to market, and 2 Matt Damon movies, one set in France and the other in the middle ages.
Let’s see some movies in theaters before we write off old people, shall we?
I gotta tell you… this day-n-date streaming thing is really down to its last oportunties to prove itself. If Dune and Matrix 4 can’t open over $35 million, we may just have to shut down the internet. Hell, Netflix will have to go out of business too. It’s all over. Hang Al Gore in the public square! Burn it all down!
But seriously… with 2.5 months left in 2021, Dune and Matrix 4 are literally the only big release movies scheduled to land this year with any kind of day-n-date gamesmanship. Warner Media has already burnt that Dune bridge. I truly wish them and all involved with the production luck. But they are opening in a format that the director does not want and one that hamstrings the domestic box office possibilities, as we have now seen 16 times in a row.
I have seen Dune on a big screen and I am glad I did. I have a ticket to see it again on a big screen on opening night. I am horrified by the idea of anyone seeing it and judging it on their TV, no matter how big their TV is. Whatever its flaws, it is absolutely a big screen spectacle.
They could still save Matrix: Resurrections this indignity. The least successful opening of the first trilogy opened to $48 million. I will not watch the new one on a TV until I have seen it at least twice on a massive screen with great Dolby ATMOS sound. But I can only speak for myself.
Warner Bros. returns to the business of movies in March and April 2022 with The Batman and Black Adam. Unless there is a new outbreak, the first will open to over $100 million domestic and the second will likely crack the $50 million mark on opening weekend… the less we know about when they will turn up on our TVs, the better.
Theatrical is not all of the way back. (My actual box office analysis of this weekend will arrive later today.) 6 weeks ago, I would have said it was at 70%. Now, maybe more like 80%. But there is a ways to go. A huge part of that is content and the density of titles being released and holds of longer than 2 weekends… all of which are promising over the long run.
Streaming is still the most powerful cultural and populist delivery system… because it’s television, dummy. People have that the TV or some tool for watching TV going 6 to 10 hours a day. The process and effort of going to the movies is something else.
There are good and bad arguments to be made about what should get a theatrical release, what should go directly onto whatever service, and all the many possible variations in between. Understand, that when it comes to the content delivery system managers, it is always about money. Always. Smile and say it’s about art - and it absolutely is for some on the food chain - but not for the ones who own everything.
It is absolutely true that a flop movie in its 3rd week of release is about as useless as a (insert cutesy farm-y tongue twister regarding an animal’s useless sex organs here, risking a nasty response from PETA). I get that. And one of the good things about our COVID journey (ahem… clearing throat… head got lightheaded there for a second) is that content companies were challenged to reconsider the value of the content that was sitting around or almost complete and make serious choices.
But “streaming must replace theatrical” was delusional from minute one. It was a Penthouse letter for middle aged people who don’t want to spend the energy or focus on going to the movies anymore. They could get the same experience sitting on their couches without putting on “outside” clothes or shaving. The content would just sidle up beside them and give them the best show of their lives. Oh baby.
BZZT! Wake up!
I love my couch and my streamers too. But some things are a different experience to be had. Some things demand the dark room and the discomfort of people being around you and sharing something.
It will come to your couch and please you between pee and popcorn breaks and the Postmates delivery and wondering what new e-mail came in soon enough.
But back to the money.
The Top 42 movies in 2019 - each grossing at least $200m ww - generated $25 billion in ticket sales worldwide, returning $12 billion or so to the distributors who put the movies out.
Squid Game is being valued by Netflix at $891 million in “impact value.”
What is the “impact value” of $25 billion in individual tickets sold worldwide for nearly the individual price of a month of Netflix?
What is the cash value of Squid Game and will there be enough of them to add up to $12 billion (which by the way, is only 63% of total box office rentals)?
This is not a leading or facetious question. This is the question that will guide the next decade of the film/tv industry.
I know that the media is having a hard time changing focus. But it’s time. As I wrote, there is a ton of detail work to be done. (For instance, the likely loss of broad interest in spending $20 and $30 a movie for home viewing seems to be much more clear than the potential abandonment of theatrical experience.) But the onus should no longer be on “can theaters survive?” so much as “will shoving theatrical-level movies onto streaming services as fast as possible work financially?”
I think you know my best guess.
Until later today…