Why cinemas now show so few films

Why cinemas now show so few films

With Bullet Train, Sony’s action movie starring Brad Pitt, hitting theaters next week, the August, September and October movie listings are getting bleak. It’s hard to find any blockbusters in the mix. In fact, there aren’t many movies that could top $50 million at the box office until Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which debuts only on November 11th.
The shortage of films comes in a year already lagging far behind pre-pandemic Hollywood production. At this point in 2019, there have been reported 63 national releases in North America comscore (SCOR). This year it’s 39 — a 38% drop from three years ago.
Despite the delay, 2022 has mostly held its ground. Ticket sales are about 30% below pre-pandemic levels in 2019, which is pretty good considering the lack of movies in theaters.

And where are all the movies? There’s still a lot being produced and released, but many are either going straight to streaming or being delayed because the industry faces many of the same problems as the rest of the economy.

In short, Hollywood has supply chain issues.

Slowdown in Tinseltown

“A number of ongoing issues related to supply chain and production pipeline backups have impacted various films,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, told CNN Business. “It’s important to remember that, in most cases, studios will work out their release strategies for anywhere from six months to a year or more.”

Although summer films have been “a resounding success” in theaters, “the industry is still catching up on audience sentiment and expectations for new content on the big screen,” added Robbins.

Think back to two years ago, when studios were delaying movies almost every day as the coronavirus pandemic turned Hollywood upside down. The repercussions of these decisions can still be felt today.

There’s another reason cinemas lack the normal amount of movies: streaming.

As streaming becomes more of a focus for media companies, studios are now finding that they cater to both theaters and streamers. Some movies that seem perfect for theaters, like 20th Century Studios’ Prey, the next installment in the Predator franchise, are going exclusively to stream rather than the big screen. In fact, many of the films from 20th Century Studio and Searchlight Pictures are just going to Hulu now.

“It’s no secret that studios are looking to diversify their distribution strategies, while streamers are looking to expand their content offerings and compete among subscriber bases,” Robbins said.

A direct-to-streaming strategy makes sense for many films. And “a big-budget film going straight to streaming can have a low box office cap at first,” Robbins added. Otherwise there would be “little point in cutting off this lucrative source of income”.

silver lining

While there may not be many big hit films in theaters over the next few weeks, there will still be films to see.

There are smaller films like the A24 horror Bodies Bodies Bodies which opens August 5th, the twisted Don’t Worry Darling starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles on September 23rd, the romantic comedy Bros. on September 30, Halloween Ends, the next and possibly final film in the Halloween franchise, on October 14; and Black Adam, a superhero film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, on October 21.

Thor: Love and Thunder grabs a mighty box office start for Marvel

Each of these films can surprise and find an audience.

Even blockbusters of yore are set to hit theaters with IMAX re-releases of ET: The Extra Terrestrial in August and Jaws in September.

Given the lack of movies hitting theaters, this summer’s hits like Top Gun: Maverick and Minions: The Rise of Gru may continue to boost ticket sales.

So there are a few silver linings for the cinemas over the next few months. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that “Wakanda Forever,” Hollywood’s next big blockbuster hope, feels like gone forever.

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