June 29, 2021
The recent domestic box office success of Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place Part II and Universal Pictures’ F9: The Fast Saga has jumpstarted the exhibition business, with theater operators on track to see 2021 revenue increase 120% from pandemic-addled 2020, according to media analyst Michael Pachter.
Year-to-date revenue has topped $1 billion, which is down about 41% from 2020, but the gap is expected to close and ultimately surpass last year’s tally as the year progresses with the debut of Disney/Marvel Studios’ Black Widow, among others.
The Wedbush Securities analyst, in a June 29 note, said the current month’s box office receipts of $368 million represent “a vast improvement” from the $4 million in ticket sales North American theaters mustered during June 2020.
Pacter said that while the vaccine rollout and a steady stream of summer blockbuster movies portends a strong industry rebound, the month’s revenue is still 68% below June 2019 box office receipts — underscoring the long path toward normalization theaters face.
Then again, the 2019 box office was an outlier as Disney alone generated a record $13.2 billion in revenue on the back of its expansive Marvel/Lucasfilm/Pixar IP portfolio.
“We expect [publicly traded exhibitor] shares to mostly trade higher this week after a reassuringly strong opening weekend for F9,” Pachter wrote. “While there was some additional release slate movement by Warner Bros. late last week, this appeared to be typical shifting to maximize profitability against competing releases, and not related to studio concerns about attendance trends.”
Warner last week pushed back again the release of big-budget sci-fi movie Dune to Oct. 22 from Sept. 22. The studio moved up to Sept. 17 Clint Eastwood’s Cry Macho, while “The Sopranos” prequel, The Many Saints of Newark, now fills the Oct. 1 slot.
Pachter cautioned that the exhibition business remains volatile dealing with merger and acquisition scuttlebutt, COVID variants gaining steam, and competing streaming services.
“There is plenty of theatrical content originally slated for 2020 to fill the 2021 release slate and spill over into 2022,” Pachter wrote. “However, streaming services are competing at the highest levels for content to bolster their offerings in an extremely competitive environment as content was consumed at heightened levels throughout 2020. [This trend] has continued through the first half of 2021.”