The State of Theatrical

Could films be coming back exclusively to theaters?

The Motion Picture Association’s Theatrical & Home Entertainment Market Environment (THEME) report for 2021 shows the market rebounding to 2019 or higher numbers, albeit the composition was skewed in favor of digital as opposed to pre-pandemic audience makeup. Read a copy of the full THEME report here. This is understandable in the wake of the pandemic and entertainment moving almost entirely online to streaming while slowly creeping back into movie theaters. Indeed, some critics believe that even if the summer box office was a blowout success, the best it could achieve would still be the worst as compared to 2001 box office revenues (for a non-Covid, box-office year). Others complain that variable pricing for tentpole films could shake up how production or distribution decisions are made creating uncertainty and instability in a recovering industry.

Warner Bros.’s The Batman landed on HBOMax 45 days after it premiered in movie theaters perhaps proving the National Association of Theatre Owners new mantra, that, “Simultaneous release is dead as a serious business model.” By the end of its 2nd week, it grossed $263mm dollars in North America, the second highest gross for a theatrical release since 2019. Exhibitors charged a premium price for The Batman, leading some to believe they will recover post pandemic using sliding scales. Still other exhibitors are thinking “outside the box,” producing income from adjacent business, such as screening rock concerts (the BTS show was a runaway success according to Cinepolis CEO Alejandro Ramírez Magaña). Keeping movies in theaters for longer windows also reduces the likelihood that they will be pirated online (remember Pirate Bay?) and further supports ticket sales.

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