The first quarter of the 2023 film year started on Friday, January 6th, 2023, and ended on Thursday, April 6th, 2023, covering weeks 1-13. When the year began, the industry had just completed a somewhat disappointing fourth quarter that was only able to generate 90% of the box office earned in Q4 2021. The momentum created earlier in the year by the spectacular run of TOP GUN: MAVERICK could not be sustained throughout the remainder of the year.
The first quarter of 2023 generated $1.816B compared to $1.35B earned in the first quarter of 2022, or 135% No one saw this coming. An uptick such as this is usually due to relative successes among the top 10 pictures, so let’s start there.
Top 10 Comparisons – Q1 2023 vs. Q1 2022
This year’s Q1 top 10 movies earned 111% compared with last year’s Q1 top 10, which does not fully account for the 135% Q1 2023 box office performance. We believe that the following three factors explain the additional uptick in performance.
- Both AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER and PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH had quite a bit of mileage left in their theatrical run to help 2023 start strong.
- More wide-release movies were released during Q1 2023, leaving no gaps in the release schedule.
- Several sequels released during Q1 2023 were successful in turning out their built-in audiences, which was not the case in Q1 2022.
The box office potential from the two powerhouse Christmas releases created early success in 2023, which was a comparative advantage versus the previous year.
- AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER earned an incredible $210M during the first quarter, making it the second-highest-grossing movie of the quarter behind ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA which grossed $2M more with $212M.
- PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH rang up $110M during the period, with a very productive run for many weeks throughout the quarter.
These two films earned an amazing $320M during the quarter, compared with last year’s two-holiday carryovers SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME and SING 2 which earned $232M in Q1 2022. The net $88M increase was a big boost for the current year’s box office.
Top 2 Holiday Carryovers in 2023 vs. 2022
Having a more consistent flow of new wide releases created a big advantage for 2023 compared with 2022. In the first quarter of 2023, there were 20 wide releases while there were only 13 in 2022. More importantly, no weekends in Q1 2023 were without at least one new wide release whereas in 2022 studios were hesitant to launch new titles in the weeks around another major release.
In fact, in Q1 2022 the weekends of 1/21, 1/28, 2/25, and 3/11 were without new wide releases, while studios left room for JACKASS FOREVER (2/4), THE BATMAN (3/4) and SCREAM V (3/10). That same condition did not reoccur in Q1 2023.
Four “Lost” Weeks from Q1 2022
Q1 2023 surged to earn 149% compared with Q1 2022 on the strength of at least one new wide release every week.
in Q1 2023, studios drew deeper into the well of sequels than in Q1 2022, with eight high-profile sequels compared to five in Q1 2022. On average, the appeal of a franchise’s well-known characters and themes produces a more reliable box office payoff than movies with original stories.
Sequels in Q1 2023 vs. Q1 2022
The total box office generated by sequels in Q1 2023 was $782M or 133% of the $586M sequels generated in Q1 2022. While success varied among the sequels, all of the top five in Q1 2023 performed at series highs: ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA, CREED III, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4, and SCREAM VI all outdid their predecessors in the Domestic box office for both their opening weekend and total theatrical run.
The super sequel effect continued into Q2 when THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE outdid two days of releasing the box office and earned its 1993 predecessor SUPER MARIO BROS. There were some notable disappointments, with SHAZAM! FURY OF THE GODS, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEVES, and MAGIC MIKE’S LAST DANCE producing underwhelming results and putting future releases of these franchises in doubt.
Even though THE BATMAN‘s $353M was the highest gross of any picture released in Q1 of 2022 or Q1 2023, the other factors propelled Q1 2023 to start strong and maintain its lead over the prior year period. This momentum and the phenomenal debut for THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE should help the first half of 2023 maintain its lead over the beginning of 2022.