Movie Business Isn't Totally In The Clear - Just Ask Some U.S. Movie Theater Chains

Maybe all is not well with the movie business -- but looking closely, perhaps we should just focus just on the movie-theater business.

Cineworld, the British-based movie theater chain that owns Regal Cinemas in the U.S., is now considering bankruptcy protection in the U.S. and the U.K..

It says there are too few big blockbuster movies since mid-2021 when the pandemic started -- and much less attendance.

On the last point, let's go deeper: We know that young moviegoers -- from millennials up to Gen Xers -- have returned to the theaters. But older movie goers 34 and older? Not so much.

All this may have people scratching their heads: Haven't the big movie-studio owners been crowing about the return of big box-office revenues as well as profitability" Yes. But apparently this does not translate to all movie-theater chains.



AMC Entertainment, the bigger U.S. chain, says business is good.

It is true that 2022 U.S. box-office revenue is still tracking some 30% below 2019 pre-pandemic levels. The business was sharply higher than what it was in 2020 (the start of the pandemic year) as well as for 2021 -- the year where the recovery really started, mostly in the summer.

Some of this is not all that surprising. Movie business analysts believe it will take a couple more years -- perhaps by 2024 to 2025 -- to resume ever-higher revenue growth.

Attendance? That has always been an iffy number -- even before the pandemic. The movie industry has been able to generally post higher annual revenue -- for studios and chains -- all due in part to gradual increases in the price per movie admission.

Of course the elephant in the room is those wannabe streaming platforms -- distribution vehicles that are now looming, but not always an actual threat to movie chains.

The good news is that movie studios recognize that major revenue generation is much stronger within a movie theater than on their streaming platforms.

After a year of experimentation in 2021 with 17 movies that ran at the same time in movie theaters and on streaming platforms, Warner Bros. returned to the old ways -- although it gave movie chains a narrower 45 days of exclusivity. And all this pullback occurred before Discovery Inc. got their hands on the WarnerMedia with its high profile merger.

Other studios have been much more cautious -- Walt Disney, Universal Pictures, and Sony Pictures Entertainment -- as just a handful of films have offered exclusive airings on streaming platforms.

The bottom line is that, for the future, streaming gives studios many more options to distribute their business -- in the long term. The question is what long time options do movie chains have?

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