By ICSC - June 26th 2024


Talk about whiplash at the box office. When Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga and The Garfield Movie flopped over Memorial Day weekend, analysts bemoaned the film industry’s worst start to the summer since 1995. A month later, Inside Out 2 had raked in $724.4 million globally, putting the Pixar title on track to be the first movie since Barbie to make $1 billion. For insights into what’s happening in the movie biz, C+CT contributing editor Joel Groover spoke with Comscore domestic movies senior vice president and managing director Janice O’Bryan and senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. Their heavily cited media services firm tracks 99% of U.S. and Canadian screens and 95% of screens globally

How is the movie business doing right now?

Dergarabedian: We had a very slow May and Memorial Day weekend. There was this feeling of discontent and anxiety on the part of the industry. But then fast-forward to Bad Boys: Ride or Die and Inside Out 2, and suddenly the sun came out. This is a business where you need to look at an entire year rather than taking a sliver in time and saying: “Oh, I wouldn’t invest in a movie theater or a shopping center with a theater because the movies just aren’t going to bring people in.” With the [2023 actor and writer] strikes and all the release-date changes that resulted from that, it’s a very fragile ecosystem. But it’s also fragile in terms of how quickly perception can turn. It’s a roller coaster because every week there are new movies and they’re all different. It’s not like widgets with the same marketing, audience and product every week.

On track to make $1 billion, the performance of Inside Out 2 is a bright spot after a disappointing Memorial Day weekend for Hollywood.

O’Bryan: We’ve had some decent movies, but the strikes really hurt us. There is still an overall lack of content, and that to me is the greatest problem we have in 2024.

Dergarabedian: Theaters don’t make the content. They’re completely beholden to the producers, and while they have been great about doing special events and showing old library titles, that’s not enough to pay your rent. I will say that it’s interesting to see Sony buy Alamo Drafthouse. That could be good for brick-and-mortar. It sends a signal to the world that the movie theater business is as viable, relevant and essential as it has ever been.

O’Bryan: Last year showed that we’re past COVID. We don’t have a problem with the theaters themselves — people want to go to the movies — but the industry does face new competition from streaming. People are trying to decide: “Do I want to see that movie in a movie theater, or do I wait for it to come out at home?” So that is a challenge.

“The movie theater is not going to go the way of the pay telephone. If you look at the long game, it’s a great business.”

What are some of the big-picture box office trends from the past few years?

Dergarabedian: The total domestic box office pre-pandemic was hovering at around $11 billion annually. In 2020, that wound up being about $2.5 billion. It has climbed steadily since then, and in 2023 we hit $9 billion. In the summer season alone last year, Barbie, Oppenheimer and Sound of Freedom generated $1.15 billion. The 2023 summer box office hit $4.1 billion, which we hadn’t seen since 2019. But we have to disabuse ourselves of the idea that success means getting back to $11 billion a year. The new normal is fewer screens and theaters chasing $9 billion or $10 billion.

O’Bryan: What happened between then and now was COVID and streaming — lots of streaming, right? Consumer behavior is just different now. People want to get out of their houses and go to the movies. We all do. We’re just more particular than we were before.

Dergarabedian: The good news is that 2025 is looking really strong. And by the way, the [box office] comps to this year will be a lot more favorable. Last year, we were thriving in this Barbenheimer-powered world, which has at this point made year-over-year comps really tough.

Any highly anticipated titles coming out later this year that could make a difference?

Dergarabedian: This summer, you’ve got Despicable Me 4, Deadpool & Wolverine and Twisters. Obviously, Deadpool & Wolverine is going to be huge. Twisters is a disaster movie with the actor Glen Powell, who is on a tear right now. Right after the summer, it’s [the] Beetlejuice [sequel] and Wicked, which will be, well, wicked. Also, “Moana 2” is going to be a theatrical release for the holidays.

Analysts say Deadpool & Wolverine should drive higher traffic to theater anchors this summer.

O’Bryan: I’ll throw in Joker: Folie à Deux, coming out in October, and also Sonic the Hedgehog 3 at Christmas.

Dergarabedian: You could argue that August is the coolest month of all. It’s like the punk rock month where you get studios taking a chance on these films. Superbad, Inglourious Basterds, District 9 and the first Guardians of the Galaxy all came out in August. It’s a month to watch.

O’Bryan: I still hold out hope that we’ll get to $8 billion this year. It’s true that we’re probably going to lose some revenue because of the strike, but I think the summer and year are going to end up just fine. It’s not over yet and as we’ve seen, there are always unexpected surprises that can boost the fortunes of the industry.

Dergarabedian: The movie theater is not going to go the way of the pay telephone. If you look at the long game, it’s a great business. That experiential part of it, which remains an analog experience — there’s just nothing to replace it.

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