For Movie Theaters, 'Home Runs' Are Not The Problem - Singles, Doubles Are

Although 2023 witnessed the movie-theater business continuing in recovery mode from the pandemic with mega hits such as Warner Bros.’ “Barbie” and Universal Pictures' "Oppenheimer" filling seats throughout the summer, more modest mid-level films may be having a tougher time. 

One overall data point shows that box-office results for the U.S. and Canada were still down from the pre-pandemic period -- 21% to $9.04 billion, according to Comscore. 

Analysis from MoffettNathanson (including data from IMdB Box Office Mojo) shows the top five movies in collective box office in the key second and third quarters of 2019 and 2023, the spring and summer periods, were identical -- pulling in $1.7 billion and $1.5 billion, respectively in their lifetime gross box-office revenue.



That's the good news: The “home runs” of the movie industry. The problem continues to be getting easier “hits” -- to keep the metaphor going -- of getting on base.

“What we remain concerned about are the singles and doubles,” says Robert Fishman, media analyst for MoffettNathanson Research. “Big films can still get people out of their homes and into theaters, but smaller films that do not feel like a major event remain challenged.”

And it is not just comparisons to the pre-pandemic year, but also to a year ago.

MoffettNathanson projects declines in the first three quarters of 2024 of 16% (first quarter), 19% (second quarter), and 26% (third quarter) respectively. Only in the fourth quarter-holiday period does it estimate a 31% bump from a year ago.

Why? Because Fishman says “three of the twenty titles listed below are sequels to films released over twenty years ago!”

Not only that, but only five films -- “Inside Out 2,” “Joker,” “Deadpool 3,” “Mufasa: The Lion King” and “Despicable Me 4” -- are coming from recent franchise releases whose previous entry grossed more than $250 million.

That means a majority of new films will be untested movie titles. Overall, MoffettNathanson sees business declining 10% (from 2023) to $8.0 billion, and down 30% from 2019. 

So is the movie theater business in some sort of decline? Not necessarily. Estimates are that in 2025 for example the movie will move up 9% to $8.7 billion. Still, the research company sees “uncertainty here given the rather large expectations placed on unproven entities.”

This begs the question: Does streaming have anything to do with this? 

Since the start of the streaming eras, much focus and expectation has been put on these middle-ground theatrical movie titles, titles might be shifted to streaming platforms, perhaps via simultaneous movie/streaming release time periods. 

This problem started before streaming and the pandemic: getting mostly adult consumers/viewers -- into theaters, with some regularity.

This does not mean that theaters won't be running those movies. They will continue on those screens.

But will those theaters be only half full because of those adult movie theater consumers watching some movie or other content on Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video or Max?

And if so, what does that really mean to the streaming business?

3 comments about "For Movie Theaters, 'Home Runs' Are Not The Problem - Singles, Doubles Are".
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  1. Ben B from Retired, February 19, 2024 at 8:10 p.m.

    I like going to the movies even if it is the non blockbuster type movie I go to the movie theater at least once month, I'll always watch a movie at the movie theater.

  2. Leo Kivijarv from PQ Media, February 20, 2024 at 3:48 p.m.

    What's missing in the analysis, which I think is correct in essence, is that the number of films being produced each year is still down considerably from pre-pandemic levels, hurt by the recent actor & writer strkes that slowed production once again. I agree that there haven't been enough mid-tier films, like the recent holiday gem "The Holdovers." aimed towards older audiences.

  3. Douglas Montgomery from Global Connects, February 20, 2024 at 7:09 p.m.

    this has been going on for at least 10 years, the top 10 titles have been garnering a larger share of the total mix for many many years, it is why Disney and WB doubled down on tentpoles

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