MCN Commentary & Analysis

A Year Later… Movie Content Scoreboard

Last year, on July 23, I wrote the first “Movie Content Scoreboard.” I am a little early with this final look at the pandemic effect on choices made on theatrical releases.

Front-and-center in the column was a list of The Untouchables… films that seemed, at that point, too significant throw to the whims of exclusive streaming or a theatrical release destabilized by the pandemic. There were 18 titles on the list.

In the year since, two were sold to streamers (Coming 2 America, Connected), two got sucked into Kilar’s Folly – aka the Warner Media dump of all 2021 Warner Bros. theatrical (we’ll see) to HBO Max – (Wonder Woman 1984, The Conjuring 3), 2 were pushed to Disney+ (Mulan PVOD, Soul free), and one was pushed out by Universal with a short theatrical window before PVOD and then, VOD, but with a much longer theatrical life than expected (The Croods 2).

For those counting at home, that would be seven total “untouchable” movies pushing to new platforms in the year, four of which had no theatrical component.

Only two had a pure theatrical launch (Tenet, A Quiet Place II).

And nine of the 18 are awaiting theatrical release: Black Widow, Dune, The Eternals, Free Guy, The King’s Man, The Last Duel, No Time To Die, Top Gun Maverick, West Side Story… with only Dune threatened with a day-n-date theatrical, which many of us think won’t happen.

The was another list of 10 “Potentially Touchable” titles, which is a surprising group in that most ended up not getting touched. Only one went directly to streamer (I’m Your Woman). seven of the titles were held for 2021-2022 dates: the recently theatrical-only Peter Rabbit 2, August release Respect, and the upcoming 355, Clifford The Big Red Dog, Death on The Nile, Deep Water, Rumble. Disney threw the troubled Fox title The New Mutants into an August release last year and Universal released News of the World in theatrical in hopes of a significant Oscar run.

Perhaps most surprising to me is that the indie world held onto so many of its top 2020 titles instead of shuffling them off to streamers. Ianucci’s David Copperfield had a hopeful summer 2020 release and A24’s Sofia Coppola film, On The Rocks, premiered on AppleTV+. Sony ultimately sold off their musical Cinderella to Amazon for September 2021 release, as one does. (Well, Sony and Paramount!) Focus did theatricals for Promising Young Woman and Let Him Go. Sony Classics chased Oscar with The Father.

But Searchlight held onto Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, Watiti’s Next Goal Wins, and The Eyes of Tammy Faye, focusing exclusively on their eventual Oscar-winning Nomadland after September. A24 held onto at least three titles. And Focus is about to release Stillwater.

The questions around theatrical in the rest of this eyar remain. There are two elements to the box-office puzzle. One is the size of the overall market, which still hasn’t cracked the $100 million mark for a weekend, which if consistent, would be a sign of a return to normalcy. The other measure is the individual performance of titles. This gets more dicey, as there are excuses available for all the underperformance we have seen in recent months. The average reported box office in the six weekends since A Quiet Place II launched has been $70 million. In the summer of 2019, that average was $171 million. So it’s not unfair to say that we are still under 50% of the way back. Maybe half of that is that the flow of titles has been thin, so you’re not getting holdover business. Single titles didn’t own overall weekends in the 2019 summer as they have in this summer. So maybe we are 60% back. Maybe 65%.

So Black Widow launches this weekend and July has at least one significant wide release each weekend, albeit not all superstars. Two are Warners “Yeah… I guess we can show it in a theater” titles. Jungle Cruise doesn’t seem to be anywhere close to launch velocity, but has the elements. Old is the kind of title one might expect to surprise. Snake Eyes seems caught between Mortal Kombat, a superhero knock-off, and Who The Hell Cares?… but we shall see. Hopefully they will all overperform.

The pandemic is far from behind us. But one can already feel the industry retrenching… even in the Universal/Peacock first pay release window. It’s a change… for television expectations. A four-month window for theatrical to first-pay is about right moving forward. This wasn’t another attack on exhibition, even if media can’t see an inch past its nose these days.

That’s all for now…

17 Responses to “A Year Later… Movie Content Scoreboard”

  1. Peter T says:

    Re: “And 9 of the 18 are still awaiting theatrical release: Black Widow, Dune, The Eternals, Free Guy, The King’s Man, The Last Duel, No Time To Die, Top Gun Maverick, West Side Story… with only Dune threatened with a day-n-date theatrical, which many of us think won’t happen.”

    Black Widow is also getting a day-n-date release, via premium access on Disney+.

  2. Doug R says:

    My cable box is offering Peter Rabbit 2, IIRC.

  3. Bob Burns says:

    The assumption that Box Office will return is premature….. we have taken freedom from disease for granted. here in a country that is swimiing with vaccine and too many unwilling to get the shots. Covid has gotten worse, and it could get worse still.

    Honestly, we don’t have a country if we can’t make vaccinations cumpulsory….. and enforce it.

    Hollywood still believes that our infectious-disease-free decades were normal. There is a very big chance that more movies from these lists will go straight to streaming. New cases are rising. Were I king, I would close the theaters and the bars. Now.

  4. Pete B. says:

    “Honestly, we don’t have a country if we can’t make vaccinations compulsory….. and enforce it.”

    “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’ ”
    Ronald Reagan, 1986

  5. Dr Wally Rises says:

    And cast those who earn their keep from bars and theaters to the wind, right Bob? I’m not saying that your concerns aren’t valid ones. Just that your grasp of ‘the solution’ is too binary.

  6. Bradley Laing says:

    —-“Marvel’s Black Widow” made 80 million at the box office and 60 million from stay-at-home viewers. Where do you go to predict that the audience will still act like this, later on?

  7. Bradley Laing says:

    “Weekend Box Office (July 9 – 11, 2021)

    by Gitesh Pandya

    It is impossible to know how much of the total opening weekend audience shifted to at-home instead of in-cinema. Disney reported a $60M estimate for its revenue for Friday-to-Sunday on the Premier Access service. At $30 per subscriber that comes to about two million households that ordered it at home for unlimited viewings. At an average of about three people watching per account it’s fair to say that roughly six million people watched Black Widow at home this weekend. Not everyone would have purchased a movie ticket, but the majority probably would have given the love fans have for the Marvel brand. If there were no at-home option, the opening weekend gross may have been in the range of $110M to $120M.”

  8. Dr Wally Rises says:

    Disney undoubtedly left money on the table with Cruella going Premier Access. I think that the big test for this model and its sustainability is actually going to be Jungle Cruise rather than BW.

  9. Bradley Laing says:

    The Box Office Mojo website list June 11-13 as the last weekend that the editors thought was part of the COVID 19 epidemic. First, does anyone know the reasoning behind this, Second, what is a benchmark for knowing if the audience wants “business as usual” at movie theaters?
    When a movie with a three month theatrical window makes so much money that opening that one movie on a streaming service on the same day it is in theaters would make very little money for the streaming service?

    —“Streaming is just TV. I want to go out to a movie this weekend!”

  10. Bradley Laing says:

    “Box Office Won’t Return to 2019 Normal Until 2024, Say Analysts
    After the pandemic shuttered movie theaters across the globe, a new report says a full recovery for the box office will likely take several years.

  11. Bradley Laing says:

    Cannes Film Festival Unveils Powerful Hong Kong Protest Doc
    To the surprise of many, The Cannes Film Festival unveils a powerful new documentary centered on the 2019 Hong Kong protests… The documentary, directed by Kiwi Chow, was screened at the end of The Cannes Film Festival, after three entries from China had already been screened. While no official response from the CCP has been issued yet, there is speculation that the festival will see boycotts and complaints from China, similar to those issued against the Academy Awards when another Hong Kong documentary, Do Not Split, was nominated.

  12. Bob Burns says:

    All we have to do is look at caseloads in England to see where this is going.

    Again, we have always been looking at this with the attitude that COVID is going to get better after a period of inconvenience… or that the current problems with theatrical can be solved with smart executive decisions and a wise allocation of money. Honestly, if you are about to place a bet on a film… opening in two years… how much do you discount theatrical? …… not knowing whether it will still be a shrunken audience… or whether the disease has gone through a couple more deleterious mutations?

    Theatrical used to be cash on the barrelhead. Box office was a pseudoscience with reliable outcomes.

  13. Ksenia_dr says:

    The best accountant in Novosibirsk. Russia.

  14. Bradley Laing says:

    I have seen many tv commercials for “jungle Cruise.” Is the idea of Dr Wally Rises, above, widely believed?

  15. Dr Wally Rises says:

    I dunno Bradley, but, anecdotally, I have heard that the studio is very confident on Jungle Cruise, and see it as a potential franchise successor to Pirates of the Caribbean.

  16. Pete B. says:

    With the above spam in the column, I wondered if LexG had returned.

    Gotta love Disney chiding Scar-Jo over her “callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic”.
    Who released the film into theaters? How dare a star want the maximum amount of profits they can receive!

  17. Moist says:

    Wow, this place really is a ghost town….a sad reminder of what this site used to be.

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