Pandemic, Streaming Gains Hamper 2022 Theatrical Movie Releases

Don’t expect U.S. theatrical box-office revenue and attendance to return to pre-2019 results for at least four years, according to one analyst.

Ben Swinburne, media analyst at Morgan Stanley, says pandemic issues will continue to linger, with accompanying consumer concerns. The transition to streaming platforms is also a big factor.

“We see two major shifts in the movie business going in 2022,” he writes. “The pandemic accelerated the shift to streaming, which counter-intuitively increased the value of film studio assets, and exclusive theatrical windows will stick for tentpole films.”

In addition, many studios, including Walt Disney, have shifted key movies out of 2022 into 2023. Some Disney movies affected are “The Marvels,” “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” and a new “Indiana Jones” sequel, he notes.



Morgan Stanley estimates U.S. box-office revenue in 2022 at $8.02 billion -- down 29% from 2019’s take of $11.4 billion. More importantly, there are attendance concerns. It estimates there will be 841 million total U.S. theatergoers in 2022 -- down 32% from 2019.

Even while all key theatrical metrics continue to improve -- a projected $4.3 billion in U.S. box-office revenue in 2021 and a 103% improvement of the dire full-on pandemic year 2020 -- box-office revenue improvement won’t be seen until at least 2025.

Morgan Stanley forecasts that U.S. box-office revenues are estimated to reach $9.3 billion in 2025 with attendance at 916 million -- still under pre-pandemic levels.

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