MCN Commentary & Analysis

What Did Pandemic Box Office Actually Look Like

I haven’t been writing much (besides on Twitter) in a while.

I just don’t want to contribute to the endless churn of writers pretending to know what they do not, suggesting that every event is defining, and basically acting like gossips.

What can I add to the conversation?

How about a domestic chart of the pandemic box office? These are reported releases on over 100 screens which opened after March 15, 2020 and ending with the May 14 weekend, 2021.

As you can see, the history will be that thirteen films will have grossed $20 million or more domestic through these fourteen pandemic months. Spiral got there last weekend.

There is no way to make any of this pretty. Four titles over $50 million and none cracked $100 million. All with good reason. None of it having to do with people not wanting to go to the movies, no matter how many times people want to project this onto an exhibition industry that was shutdown for safety.

For perspective, A Quiet Place II, which is still clearly running with limitations, grossed more this Tuesday than all but 33 releases grossed in total in the prior fourteen months.

As for Kilar’s Folly: The Warner Bros. Experiment, the seven films that have dropped into day-n-date so far have grossed just over $1 billion worldwide and cost around $750 million total, plus about $500 million in marketing. That’s roughly a $750 million price tag for this experiment. Probably more.

Three million new subs at $15 a pop, twelve times a year is $540 million.

How many new subs will the Friends reunion bring? How long will they stay? Will HBO Max try to claim that Those Who Wish Me Dead and Hacks did all the heavy lifting and not Friends: The One Where We Are Amazed How Old The Guys Got? How will their biggest marketing investment since Godzilla, In The Heights, actually play, in theatrical and as a sub draw?

Moving forward… The Hitman’s Bodyguard did $75 million domestic and another $100 million international. What will the sequel do?

Peter Rabbit did $115 million domestic and another $235 million internationally.

Will F9 being the tipping point? The last five Furiouses did $155 million, $210 million $239 million, $353 million, and $226 million domestically. So what is the reasonable target for success? I’d say $150 million is okay… $200 million is really good news.

Universal is flooding the zone a week later with The Forever Purge and The Boss Baby 2, with Baby 2 free on Peacock for paying subscribers.

And that brings us to Black Widow, which Disney will make available on Disney+ for $30 for those who really love staying home. Tipping Point Two.

From there, three weeks to Jungle Cruise, also Disney, which not yet been aggressively marketed. But it’s pricey and Rocky and Em-my, so one imagine the wave of “go” is coming.

Between Widow and Cruise, Space Jam 2, Hotel Transylvania 3, Old, and the G.I. Joe spin-off (without Nic Cage), Snake Eyes. Will there be solid business, disappointments, or the first surprise break-out of 2021?

August looks amazingly like August, with a refreshed Suicide Squad (also free for HBO Max subs) and Free Guy as the only big muscle, with a few next tier titles hoping to find audiences in the relative void.

In other words… those claiming that there are too many movies being released too quickly are utterly full of shit… or just wrong. Summer has some big movies. But there is plenty of spacing and a normal summer, there would be a lot more density. It looks like two or three titles that can crack $100 million domestic this summer. In 2019, there were eleven $100 million summer titles… take May away and it’s still eight.

Really, if five titles got to $100 million domestic this summer, it would be a miracle that should have the industry sacrificing whoever is currently dating Florence Pugh to the gods of Midsommar.

How about a rundown of the theatrical distribution models used right now? Having a variety of models confusing consumers is almost worse for exhibition than a pandemic, by the way. One crappy one would be better than a smorgasbord as exhibitors try to get back to some sort of norm, like everyone else.

The list of the many systems currently being used and experimented with in the next column…

10 Responses to “What Did Pandemic Box Office Actually Look Like”

  1. YancySkancy says:

    I believe Florence Pugh is dating Zach Braff, so I suppose it’s possible the industry wouldn’t mind sacrificing him for the greater good.

  2. Bob Burns says:

    Thanks for this column.

    My math for Warner, using your numbers, is $250 million profit. Seems pretty good for an experiment during disaster times….. am I reading this correctly?

    I think theatrical will come back strong…. that people will pay for subscriptions and for theatrical. I have confidence in the studios PR machines.

    I would love to see the walls beteen studios and exhibitors come down….. be able to go to a Warner theater to see Warner content….. maybe one theater playing Looney Tunes all day…. etc. One could hope that we would get better theaters than the depressing slums, with even more depressing ads we get in most of the US.

    We don’t have ArcLight.

  3. Hcat says:

    Bob, I think he had it down to a billion dollars in ticket sales that translates to less than half that being returned to the studios, depending on what the China split is and if they have partners etc. So Warner’s basically covered their marketing expenditures and will have to make up the rest in ancillary markets. Not entirely uncommon when talking about an individual film but not at all great when talking about an entire slate. Maybe Warner’s gets a nice slice of HBO revenue since it’s a Peter paying Paul synergy knot. But it’s more likely they will be taking huge write offs somewhere down the line.

    Now can someone explain why when everyone is sending their cream of the crop to streaming is Uni sending obvious DTV contenders like Spirit and Boss Baby to theaters?

  4. Bradley Laing says:

    Do you think that 66,292,124 over-all weekend box office is a sign that the audience is coming back to theaters, or not?

  5. Bob Burns says:

    thank you, hcat. Of course.

  6. Hcat says:

    I think the attendance is a good sign. Back to normal is asking too much at this point but once people start doing their normal summer things, and a steady flow of product appears, things should be running back at eighty percent 2019 numbers by October

    I would love to know the numbers on cruelas premium streaming numbers or how Kong vs Godzilla did on HBO.

  7. Bradley Laing says:

    —-For the “in Memoriam” section of the February, 2022 Oscars?

    Lisa Banes, ‘Gone Girl’ actress, has died following hit and run accident
    By Anna Sturla and Mark Morales, CNN

  8. Bradley Laing says:

    Edgar Wright’s ‘The Sparks Brothers’ Lights Up Specialty Box Office Amid Full Theater Reopenings In LA, NY; ‘Meet The Blacks 2’ Continues Rolling For Second Week

    “This week, The Sparks Brothers, the documentary debut of director Edgar Wright (Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz), took its turn electrifying the arthouse space”
    The Sparks Brothers grossed $265K this Father’s Day weekend on 534 screens ($489 per screen average), huge numbers for any documentary debut these days.

    The strongest performing markets for the pop-rock doc were Los Angeles (with 18% of the gross in 48 theaters), New York, San Francisco, Austin and Chicago.”

  9. Bob Burns says:

    Even if the box office recovers, will the various genres recover equally?

    Dialog driven films may be driven into streaming by audiences.

  10. Bradley Laing says:

    CANNES, France, July 5 (Reuters) – The head of the Cannes Film Festival took a swipe at rival events on Monday, saying some had been too quick to allow movies made by streaming giants into their main competitions without applying strict rules, and had harmed cinema as a result.

    Platforms like Netflix have thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic and picked up several top film awards, while studios and cinemas have struggled as coronavirus restrictions closed movie theatres and pushed more viewers online.

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