Right after CinemaCon, on April 29, I projected the box office summer at $2.9 billion. I wrote, “If this summer crawls to $3 billion domestic, it will be a frickin’ miracle. And it has nothing to do with consumer tastes or habits changing or anything else.”
And indeed, that miracle showed up in Top Gun: Maverick, which did than $457 million (and still growing) more domestically than any other Tom Cruise movie in history. For perspective, the difference between TGM and Tom’s next highest grosser, 2005’s War of the Worlds, is more than any other film has grossed domestically this year.
Still… the summer is now at $3.3 billion and unlikely to get to $3.4 billion.
So, I tell you with no joy at all that the 4 months of September - December is optomistically looking to land just under $2.75 billion (including the Avatar 2 and Black Panther 2 holdovers into 2023), ending the year with a $8.1 billion domestic total.
I am here to tell you, again, that there is some COVID lag, but that the 28% lag behind the last pre-COVID year, 2019, should be and could be more like 20% if the movie theaters had a similar amount of studio-level product being released as was being released pre-COVID. And 2023, not hamstrung by COVID (we hope) for the first quarter, could close that 20% gap and perhaps surpass 2019... if distributors would release a reasonable amount of theatrical product.
I am amazed to be writing that the shorter windows, as practiced consistently by Universal, have not been as damaging as I expected. Some of that could be that people are more anxious than normal to get out of the house once they felt safe. Some has been a clear uptick in spending on premium screenings in major cities.
I still believe that the current windowing situation is too chaotic for all but the most committed movie consumers to follow. If everyone just stuck with 45 days, the whole industry would be better off and it would not affect streaming subscriptions at all.
They would be even better off with a 59-day window. But this is not The Man of La Mancha.
Below is my list of movies that I think will gross $5 million or more in the next 4 months. Obviously, it will be deeply imperfect. Some numbers will be too generous, others not generous enough. Some I am rooting to make me look miserly and others, the opposite. Some of the awards hopefuls could be much bigger than I am projecting, especially going into 2023. I am not bringing a ton of ego, judgment of quality or absolutism to this exercise.
The Top 4 of Black Panther 2, Avatar 2, and Black Adam 1, and Strange World have the chance to surprise the most dramatically in a positive or negative way because of their inherent scale. Those 4 titles alone represent 1.65 billion of my $2.75 billion projection. The entirety of this list represents $2.65 billion of that same $2.75 billion guess.
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