The health of the theatrical business is viewed by some as a Rorschach test for the media industry overall. While box office grosses this year are 30% greater than they were at the same point in 2022, they are still down 25% from the banner year of 2019 prior to the pandemic. Should we view this as a positive or negative sign?
Two major news outlets published opposite takes on where the exhibition stands today and is headed going forward. The Wall Street Journal focused on the financial struggles of mega-exhibitors Cineworld and AMC, with bankruptcy talk swirling around them, whether actual (Cineworld) or potential (AMC).
They also point to the struggles at National CineMedia, the largest provider of cinema advertising services to big exhibitors in the U.S. Combined with the decommissioning of 2,000 movie theatre screens in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic and a reduced window of exclusivity for theatrical releases and the WSJ concludes that exhibitors are still “in pain” from the pandemic’s disruptions.
CNBC looks at the same industry and sees the glass as being half full, with theatres making progress towards “catching up” to their results from 2019. In 2023, the number of major releases has returned almost to 2019 levels. One key factor in the results from 2022 lagging was a relative lack of products in the marketplace. 2023 is also enjoying a steady flow of “mid-tier” releases such as A MAN CALLED OTTO, 80 FOR BRADY, M3GAN, and CREED III.
See also: Movie-Theater Industry Pain Intensifies Even as Pandemic Eases (Wall Street Journal)