Look out, streaming platforms. Theater owners want more movies -- more specifically, exclusive films -- and they want a lot more.
The U.S. theater-chain industry wants the business to get back to releasing more than 100 wide-release features per year -- back to pre-2020 levels, when this number of movie releases was a regular thing before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and all its disruptions.
There have been a number of big box-office movies recently -- from “Black Adam” to “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and “Avatar" -- but not enough, according to movie executives.
For example, there were only 71 movies that debuted in 2,000 or more theaters in 2022. While this was up from a total of 67 in 2021, it is still down from 112 in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
Although box-office revenues are up so far in 2023 versus a year ago -- 37% higher -- they are still down 22% from the pre-pandemic 2019 period.
AMC CEO Adam Aron believes -- as do other analysts -- that a full box-office recovery for the business won't happen until next year -- or more likely, in 2025.
How does this affect premium streaming services? Over the last year or so, analysts say, this has not resulted in fewer movies for streaming services -- but it may have resulted in somewhat fewer first-run exclusive movies.
At the same time, AMC Theaters -- the largest U.S. movie chain -- has seen attendance still down in the fourth-quarter period of 2022 to 50 million. Typically, the fourth quarter is a busy theatrical period, with its rush of holiday movies.
One thing that is helping theater chains in the near term is that owners of premium streaming platforms are looking for better monetization of content.
Warner Bros. Discovery may be at the forefront of this new mindset. For example, last August it indefinitely suspended a proposed “Batgirl” movie, with a $78 million budget, from an intended run on HBO Max. It had no plans -- at that time -- to run the film in theaters.
One example of returning more films back to theaters could be Disney/20th Century's “Avatar: The Way of Water,” the monster hit that has risen to the third-highest global box-office revenue result ever.
For its immediate after-theater release, Disney has not slotted this “Avatar” movie as just more movie content on a premium streamer like Disney+ -- where consumers could access it anytime, as part of a monthly subscription service that costs $10.99 for its no-ads/subscriber option.
Instead, it will sell the movie on digital platforms where consumers can buy and see individual films on video on-demand (VOD) services like Vudu, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, and Movies Everywhere -- starting on March 28.
In the past, movie studios have offered movies this way for upwards of $30 or so. Back in September 2020, Disney+ did just this for a showing of “Mulan” priced at $29.99.
It seems more streaming executives are looking to slow down the rush of major -- and expensive -- fresh movie content for the small screen.
Haven't been to a movie theater in years, long before covid. I'd rather visit my dentist's office for a root canal than pay to see a big-budget fantasy, superhero, or blow-em-up and shoot 'em up with a bunch of strangers. Especially now, due to Big Hollywood / Wall Street greed and acquiescence, inane movies that must have script approval by Beijing before even being greenlit. At least with streaming, you can switch the channel after ten minutes of unimaginative storytelling to try to find something decent to watch. Peak content? Peak Mediocrity.