Set more than a decade after the events of the first movie, “Avatar: The Way of Water” tells the story of the Sully family.
The 2022 box office hit is a Hollywood underdog story that comes alive.
Although available movie content in theaters is down nearly 40% compared to 2019, annual ticket sales are down nearly 30%, according to data from Comscore.
Audiences are back in movie theaters in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and are spending more than ever on tickets and popcorn. However, the lack of consistent theatrical releases will greatly impact the industry during the crucial final months of the year.
As it stands, there are currently only four potential releases that will hit theaters before the end of December:
- Warner Bros. “Black Adam” – October. 21
- “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” from Disney and Marvel Studios – November. 11
- Disney Animation Strange World – November. 23
- Disney: The Way of Water’s Avatar – Dec. 16
In 2019, there were nearly two dozen blockbuster-style films on the calendar for the last four months of the year, including “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”.
“Now we’re seeing that as we go into the fall we’ve kind of stalled again, and a lot of that actually falls into the unresolved pandemic issues,” said Shawn Robbins, Senior Media Analyst at BoxOffice.com.
These issues include production shutdowns that delayed film shooting and pressure on the role of visual effects to complete projects on short deadlines.
There is no doubt that moviegoers are interested in returning to movie theaters. Movies like Top Gun: Maverick, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”, “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Thor: Love and Thunder” brought audiences back together. However, with fewer films from all budgets on the list, there are fewer opportunities for studios and movie theater operators to attract customers to the big screen.
“For me, the question now is, when can we go back to watching more of those movies like ‘Everything Everywhere Every Time’ and ‘Elvis’ and ‘The Black Phone?'” Robbins said. ‘, noting that there is potential for some smaller movie releases such as ‘Lyle and Lyle Crocodile’, ‘Amsterdam’ and ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ to achieve stronger-than-expected ticket sales. Universal’s Halloween Kills will be shown in theaters and at Peacock on October 14.
Dwayne Johnson dressed as Black Adam speaks on stage at Warner Bros. A stage session with “Black Adam” and “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” panel during 2022 Comic Con International: San Diego at the San Diego Convention Center on July 23, 2022 in San Diego, California.
Kevin Winter | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
“The hope is that it will happen later in the fall and during the holidays,” he said. “But it will already be 2023 at this point before there is some consistency on a monthly basis again.”
This is why many studios have turned to content libraries, and films previously released in theaters, to lure people back to movie theaters. Disney has already brought the previous Star Wars “Rogue One” movie back into theaters and has plans to relaunch the original “Avatar” at the end of September. Sony, too, is in the midst of releasing an upgraded version of “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
Rereleases are nothing new in the industry, especially when it comes to major anniversary milestones for popular and iconic features, but 90% of those shows are scheduled through Fathom Events, not the studios themselves, according to data from Comscore. Fathom is a joint venture of AMC, Regal, and Cinemark that brings old titles back to cinemas for limited entries.
Fathom’s upcoming annual shows include the 40th anniversary of “Star Trek: Wrath of Khan,” the 10th anniversary of “Pitch Perfect,” the 40th anniversary of “Poltergeist” and the 60th anniversary of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The company also releases a list of Halloween titles in October, including 1932’s “The Mummy,” 1935’s “Frankenstein’s Bride,” 1954’s “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” and 1943’s “Phantom of the Opera.” Plus, it’ll celebrate the anniversary. The 25th anniversary of “Scream 2” and the 30th anniversary of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”.
Fathom is also working with Universal to release three Judd Apatow films ahead of the romantic comedy “Bros,” which hits theaters on September 3. 30.
Re-releases of “Forget Sarah Marshall,” “Train Wreck,” and “Knocked Up” are set to begin in September. 19, with pre-recorded introductions directed by Nicholas Stoller and co-stars Billy Eichner and Luke MacFarlane.
Action movies dominated the box office in 2022, so counter-programming like this romantic comedy could entice demographics that weren’t eager to return to movie theaters or bring back customers looking to enjoy a different genre on the big screen.
These re-releases allow cinemas to obtain additional content and market “Bros” to the public, said Ray Nat, CEO of Fathom.
Letitia Wright plays Shuri in Marvel Studio’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Likewise, Disney hopes that the re-release of “Avatar” at the end of September will attract fans and boost interest in the upcoming sequel, “The Way of Water.”
“The box office is currently at over $5.3 billion so far, which is significantly higher than the last two years at this point, but naturally down from 2019 and 2018,” said Paul DeGarabedian, Senior Media Analyst at ComScore.
With big blockbusters like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in November, and obviously, “Avatar: The Way of Water” in December, among others, the industry is likely to end up with a projected 2022 domestic box office production of around $7.5 billion. ,” he said. “This is frankly a great result for an industry that saw 2020 levels at just $2.3 billion and 2021 that ended up at $4.6 billion.”
Dergarabedian and Robbins noted that 2023 has a much stronger slate of films, both in terms of number of films and variety of content. With more films coming out and getting more frequent, the domestic box office in general is expected to make a stronger recovery.
The 2022 box office lost “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” which was scheduled for December 3. 21, last month when Warner Bros. Discovery pushed the film to March 17, 2023. It replaced Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, which will now arrive on Christmas Day in 2023.
“The first quarter is full of big films that should create momentum leading to a strong summer next year,” said Durgarabedian.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.