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THB #97: Starving The Box Office, The Next 6 Months
The Batman is doing nicely. Uncharted has grossed over $100m.
By this date (March 10) in 2019, 5 films that would gross over $100 million domestic had been released. The Upside, a dramedy remade from a movie with virtually no US footprint. Glass, a thriller, a sequel for 3 Shyamalan original thrillers. Lego Movie 2. How To Train Your Dragon 3. And Captain Marvel.
The domestic box office is not only back to normal… it is still in a rather desperate position when it comes to supply chain.
By this date in 2019, there had been 23 wide releases (over 1000 screens). This year, just 16.
You say, because you have been reading people who don’t really research the memes they repeat, “But families aren’t going to the movies! Three of those $100m+ movies were animation!”
I say, how do you know whether families are going to the movies when there have been no family films, especially animation, in 2022? The last animated movie to open wide was Sing 2, which has grossed $154 million to date and has never fallen out of the Top 7 since its release on December 24. Before that, Encanto, which got a very softly marketed release by Disney on November 24 while being promoted as a Disney+ television release on December 24. In spite of this poor handling, Encanto did $94 million domestically, $153 million internationally and spawned a massive hit album.
How do you know if families are going to the movies if you only have 2 releases targeting that audience in 3.5 months?
Answer: You don’t.
Disney is giving Turning Red a streaming-only release in a family movie market that hasn’t had an entry in over 2 months.
So what do things look like moving forward. Will the movie industry give exhibtion any change to regain its full footing?
This month has had one wide release. None on this, the 2nd weekend. Only one more this month from a major studio (The Lost City from Paramount), plus 2 horror movies listed as wide, Umma (Stage 6) and X (A24).
March 2019 had 11 wide releases, not only with Captain Marvel and US, but Dumbo and Wonder Park both on over 3750 screens. Plus 2 Focus releases, 2 Lionsgate, an A24, a Neon, and a Pure Flix wide release on 1516 screens.
April? Closer. 9 wide release movies currently on the schedule. 11 in 2019, including Avengers: Endgame. Perhaps we will still see Dr Strange 2 move into the last week of April. As it stands, we have a fair number of bigger budget movies coming in April, including Morbius, Sonic 2, and Fantastic Beasts 3. We also have the first animated movie since Sing 2, The Bad Guys, from Universal. And Ambulance from Michael Bay, his first film in 5 years.
May starts with Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, ends with Top Gun: Maverick and now that Warners has abandoned the month, has only Downton Abbey: A New Era in between. Empty spaces!
2019 had an insane 16 wide releases in May, led by Aladdin, John Wick 3, Pokemon Detective Oikachu, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters all scoring over $100m domestic. Plus Rocketman, Ma, The Hustle, Long Shot, The Intruder, Booksmart, Poms, and Ugly Dolls… showing a full range of titles. Too many titles, to be honest. No month really needs more than 3 wide releases a weekend for 5 weekends. But 3? Like this May now has. A horror show, even with a big Marvel movie leading the parade.
At least June has 4 wide releases. Nothing the first weekend of the month, apparently in fear of Tom Cruise, but big titles like Jurassic World 3, Lightyear (the 2nd animated wide release of 2022), and Elvis, plus The Black Phone, which feels like it could be a hot title. I expect Universal to have its widest theatrical window in over 2 years for Jurassic 6. Less so for Black Phone. Hard to trust Disney around animation now, but we will see. And Elvis is clearly for adults with a chance of capturing teens.
June 2019? 10 wide releases. One mega-smash in Toy Story 4. A disappointing sequel in The Secret Life of Pets 2 (after the original overperformed extravagantly). 5 franchise efforts that came up short: X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Men in Black: International, Shaft, Child’s Play, and the most relatively successful, Annabelle Comes Home. Plus, movies for adults in Late Night and Yesterday, the second of which did pretty well, really.
The 5 weekends of July are suddenly overloaded. Four franchise movies with Minions 2, Thor: Love & Thunder, Jordan Peele’s Nope, and DC League of Super-Pets (the 3rd wide release animated film of 2022… in July) taking the spot where Black Adam was supposed to land with The Rock. Plus a clear franchise hopeful in Bullet Train, a comedy/action movie with Brad Pitt and a loaded supporting cast. And a title-cinfused animated reboot of Blazing Saddles, which if it holds will be the 4th animated wide release of the year.
July 2019 offered up two massive titles with Spider-Man: Far From Home and The Lion King, a big adult hit with Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood, and 3 mid-rangers with Midsommar, Crawl, and Stuber.
But July is really the first month I can see topping the pre-pandemic numbers, with two films with the potential to top $250m domestic and 2 more with the potential to be over $150m domestic.
I see August as a 3-weekend month, generally. There are occassional films that break that rule of thumb.
But even with just 3 weekends to discuss, 2019 had an insane 10 wide releases in its first 3 weekends of August. The mostly disappointed. But there were a lot of at-bats. F&F: Hobbs and Shaw managed “only” $174m domestic. It was the only $100m grosser that month. Good Boys, Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark, and Dora & The Lost City of Gold were the 3 that got past $50m domestic.
This August, there are currently only 4 wide releases scheduled in the first 3 weekends of August. You probably haven’t heard of any of them yet. Secret Headquarters, Easter Sunday, The Man From Toronto, and Beast.
We are a long way from August, in marketing world. So, who knows?
But in 2019, there were at least 2 brand titles and 10 wide releases aiming high.
89 wide releases from the start of 2019 through the 3rd weekend of August. This year, 2022… 46.
And now the chorus… “but people don’t want to go to the movies!!!!”
And now the irony… as the streamers fatten themselves up like pigs to the slaughter of endless indifference, some expect the theatrical business to return to its former glory (2019 was the 2nd highest grossing year in box office history… 2018 was #1) with about half the number of titles being released to wide theatrical.
Some think that families won’t go back to movie theaters… but there are only 5 animated releases in the first 8 months of the year.
Some claim adults would rather sit at home… but won’t take into account that dramas and comedies are being rerouted to streaming without the chance to draw a paying audience, assuring the outcome they imagine to be truth.
Disney will release just 4 movies to theaters first in the first 8 months of 2022. All will be franchise titles. They are committed to theatrical like Elizabeth Taylor was committed to her first husband.
And Warners is no better.
Mind you, this is 2/3 of the year.
Universal - 11
Sony - 7
Paramount - 7
Disney - 4
Warner Bros. - 4
How will theatrical end? Not with a bomb, but with a withdraw of content.