Paramount Ups Q1 Licensing Revenue as Theatrical Revenue Craters

With Paramount Pictures generating a record low $1 million in revenue in the first quarter (ended March 31), the studio is offsetting ongoing pandemic-related box office declines by licensing content to Paramount+ and other streaming platforms.

Paramount, which had no releases in the quarter, generated $167 million in theatrical revenue during the previous-year period prior to the pandemic.

As a result, the studio bumped up by nearly 55% “licensing and other” segment revenue to $996 million, from $644 million in the previous-year period. The unit now includes Paramount Home Entertainment revenue from the sales and rental of movies. The home entertainment distributor had revenue of $174 million in the previous-year period.

“Licensing and other” revenue increased in large part from the distribution of content to Paramount+ and third parties, as well as revenue from the licensing of Miramax movies.

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Adjusted pre-tax earnings increased $177 million primarily due to higher licensing revenue compared to the prior-year period, which included higher distribution costs associated with theatrical releases during the first quarter of 2020 prior to the pandemic.

The studio’s last major theatrical hits included Sonic the Hedgehog, which generated $319 million worldwide in 2020, and Bumblebee, with $468 million following its box office debut on Dec. 19, 2018.

Disney’s ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ Remains Atop Domestic Box Office Concurrent With Premier Access in the Home

Disney’s animated Raya and the Last Dragon continues its strong pandemic box office run, reportedly generating an estimated $5.2 million in ticket sales across more than 2,200 domestic screens for the weekend ended March 21. The title has generated about $24.8 million ($71.6 worldwide) since its March 3 bow concurrently with premium VOD ($29.99) availability on Disney+. Raya is Disney’s second PVOD release following live-action Mulan.

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Among the weekend’s top-performing theatrical titles in the U.S., the usual suspects continue to resonate, including Warner Bros. Pictures animation release Tom and Jerry with $3.8 million ($32 million total; $70+ million global); Lionsgate’s Chaos Walking generated $2.2 million ($10 million; $15 million), followed by the studio’s newcomer, The Courier, starring Rachel Brosnahan and Benedict Cumberbatch, the latter as a businessman-turned-Cold War-spy, with $2 million. Universal Pictures/DreamWorks Animation’s The Croods: A New Age continues to shine, selling $620,000 in tickets ($55.2 million; $159.7 million) despite being available across multiple retail channels.

Oscar nominees A Promising Woman and Minari saw weekend ticket sales of $195,000 and $306,000, respectively, bring the movies’ total theatrical revenue to $5.7 million and $1.3 million.

The weekend saw most of the U.S. exhibition market re-open for business, albeit at 25% capacity (or 100 people per screen) due to ongoing government restrictions.

“This weekend showed solid results from holdovers, demonstrating the revenue generating horsepower of opening the biggest box-office market in North America,” Paul Dergarabedian, media analyst with Comscore, said in a statement. “Eager movie fans in Los Angeles showed up in solid numbers to enjoy the big screen experience once again.”

 

‘Avatar’ Reclaims All-Time Box Office Crown Following Imax China Re-Release

A new generation of Chinese moviegoers this weekend flocked to the virtual world of Pandora, as Imax Corporation generated $6.2 million at the box office with the re-release of James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi epic Avatar, helping it reclaim the all-time box office crown.

Imax theaters captured 30% of the movie’s weekend box office, despite accounting for only 1% of screens in the market. The strong performance helped Avatar once again become the top-grossing theatrical release of all time with more than $2.8 billion in ticket sales. Imax has now earned a lifetime box office of $249.5 million with Avatar, which remains the highest-grossing film in the high-definition 3D format.

“A big-screen sized thank you to Imax for their contribution to the success of Avatar at the box office,” producer Jon Landau said in a statement.

Imax CEO Rich Gelfond says Avatar changed “everything” for the exhibitor’s business model — catapulting brand awareness, notably in China.

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“Yet again, Chinese moviegoers are demonstrating the pent-up demand for theatrical blockbusters that awaits cinemas around the world as they reopen,” Gelfond said.

The original 2010 Imax 3D release of Avatar in China generated $24 million on only 14 screens — a per screen average of $1.7 million — and playing to round-the-clock sold out shows. The film jumpstarted Imax’s ascent to become one of the most recognized entertainment brands in China.

The following year, the exhibitor signed a 75-theater deal with Wanda — at the time the company’s biggest international theater deal ever — and established Imax China as its own wholly-owned subsidiary of the company. Today, China is Imax’s biggest market in terms of theaters with more than 700, and the market accounts for approximately one-third of the company’s annual global box office.

Nine out of the top 10 performing Chinese theaters screening Avatar over the weekend were Imax, and the film is the highest grossing re-release in 3D since Chinese theaters reopened in July.

With this weekend’s re-release, Avatar reclaimed the box office crown it relinquished to Disney/Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame in 2019. Imax holds a piece of the history of both films. Avengers: Endgame continues to hold the record for the biggest opening weekend of any Imax film ever, with $91.5 million worldwide, and was the second Hollywood film ever to be shot entirely with Imax cameras.

The second and third installments of the “Avatar” franchise are currently slated for December 2022 and 2024, respectively.

Imax Corp. Posts Record-Breaking Weekend Box Office — in China

While U.S. movie exhibitors continue to languish from government-mandated closures and wary moviegoers due to the pandemic, Imax just recorded its best-ever weekend box office in China — where the coronavirus outbreak began.

The 3D exhibitor soared to its best-ever opening weekend for the Chinese New Year holiday, grossing $25 million through Feb. 14 as the country kicked off its pinnacle box office period. Despite a continued capacity limitation of at least 75% across China, Imax grew opening weekend box office 45% over its record-breaking 2019, when Chinese cinemas were last open for the holiday.

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Shot entirely with Imax cameras, the comedy franchise film Detective Chinatown 3 led the way with $23.5 million — Imax’s biggest three-day opening weekend ever for a Chinese film. Imax captured 6% of the film’s weekend box office, despite accounting for only 1% of overall screens. Friday, Feb. 12 marked the first time Imax generated more than 1 million admissions in a single day in any global market — China or otherwise.

In a strategic effort to embrace local-language filmmaking, grow its network, and strengthen its brand in China, Imax continues to make a significant comeback at the Chinese box office. The exhibitor has grossed $126 million since theaters first reopened in China last July — with box office up 28% in December and 140% in January — despite continued capacity limitations across the country and a lack of new Hollywood movies in the market.

The tally represents 44% of the comparable U.S. weekend box office total of $286.7 million from July 2020 through January 2021.

“Given our recent success at the Chinese box office, we suspected our fans would turn out for Chinese New Year in a big way, but these early returns have blown away even our most optimistic projections,” CEO Rich Gelfond said in a statement. “With record-breaking box office, strong market share, and multiple releases filmed in Imax, this is an important milestone on our road to recovery at the global box office and our long, successful history in China.”

For the first time, the Chinese New Year slate featured an additional two Imax releases, including A Writer’s Odyssey, which includes more than an hour of exclusive and expanded aspect ratio content. New Gods: Nezha Reborn” marked the debut of a new animated franchise. All three films scored high with audiences, with Maoyan scores exceeding 8.8.

“Imax is on the leading edge of the strong box office recovery in China, with audiences emerging from the pandemic and seeking out the most immersive theatrical experience in the world,” said Edwin Tan, CEO of Imax China.

Comscore: 2020 Global Box Office Revenue Plummeted 71%

The global pandemic wreaked havoc on the movie theater business as thousands of screens were ordered shuttered beginning last March to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Global box office plummeted 71% to $12.2 billion, compared with $42.5 billion in 2019, as large percentages of screens remained closed or operating under limited seating restrictions.

New data from Comscore  attempts to put a positive spin on the situation, suggesting that a combination of a well-managed pandemic response coupled with strong local product led to a strong theatrical recovery in many countries in the second half of the year.

Though as expected the results were much lower than in a traditional year, the aforementioned revenue demonstrates that with careful planning, adherence to local health regulations and engaging content, studios and exhibitors found a path to survival even as the world continues to navigate the coronavirus pandemic.

The $2.25 billion performance of the North American box office underscored the fact several new movies found audiences both at the drive-in and in the limited number of brick-and-mortar theaters that were open despite an almost unlimited availability of filmed content at home on the small screen. Films as varied as Tenet, Wonder Woman 1984, The Croods: A New Age, Unhinged and The Wretched drew movie fans to the big screen in 2020.

China has seen the strongest box-office recovery post-lockdown. Initially closing in January 2020, the Chinese market remained closed for a full six months (despite a brief, and quickly abandoned, re-opening in late March). The whole-market return approach seems to have sold the message better to moviegoers, rebuilding a broader consumer confidence more quickly with local titles like The Eight Hundred and My People, My Homeland powering this rebound, both movies generating more than $400 million in revenue.

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Japan, like every other country, was affected by the reduction of worldwide theatrical releases. However, the ability to have local titles (like Demon Slayer: Mugen Train and I’m From Today!) released into the market allowed Japan to continue to operate with a steady stream of films and thus continued to attract audiences.

Like China and JapanSouth Korea has also realized gains from showcasing local product, allowing the Korean market to boast solid results with the appeal of films The Man Standing Next and Deliver Us From Evil reflected in their strong box office performance.

This success was not limited to the Asia Pacific region, other countries such as Spain had success with individual titles such as Padre No Hay Mas Que Uno 2 (Father There Is Only One 2) that back in late-July served to jump-start Spain’s box office by 100% week over week. The film was number one in Spain, in 2020 generating $15.2 million.

“Though the pandemic has caused much disruption to the theatrical business, there are encouraging signs of recovery in many countries around the world,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, said in a statement. “Today we know that audiences are anxious to return to enjoy the theatrical experience, and the many notable successes prove that if cinemas are open and offer great content, moviegoers are indeed excited to watch appealing movies on the big screen.”

New Year’s Weekend ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Box Office Plummets 67%

Warner Bros. Pictures’ Wonder Woman 1984 generated an estimated $5.5 million in domestic weekend box office revenue through Jan. 3 — down about 67% from the previous weekend tally of $16.7 million, according to industry data. WW84, which stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and Kristen Wiig, has sold about $28.5 million in tickets in the U.S. and entered the weekend with more than $100 million in global revenue — about half of the movie’s production budget. The movie is playing in about 40% of available U.S. screens due to the ongoing pandemic.

The theatrical drop underscores the fact the sequel to the 2017 Wonder Woman is also available to stream on HBO Max for the next 21 days.

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Universal Pictures again dominated the majority of the first 2021 weekend Top 10 box office titles, led by The Croods: A New Age with an estimated $2 million in ticket sales. The DreamWorks Animation sequel has generated $34.4 million in the U.S.; $102 million worldwide since its release Nov. 25, 2020.

Other titles included Tom Hanks-starrer News of the World with $1.5 million ($5.2 million total); Screen Gems’ Monster Hunter ($1.1 million/$10.9 million globally); Focus Features’ Promising Young Woman ($630,000/$1.8 million); Lionsgate’s Fatale ($610,000/$3 million); Roadside Attractions’ Pinocchio ($743,000/$21.2 million globally); 101 Studios’ The War With Grandpa ($115,000/$31.5 million worldwide); Universal’s Come Play ($51,000/$11.8 million globally); and Freaky ($41,000/$14.8 million worldwide).

Walt Disney Studios’ re-release of 1979 sci-fi thriller Alien, starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton and John Hurt, generated $125,000 worldwide.

Meanwhile, Allan Reagan, CEO of the Flix Brewhouse theatrical chain in Texas, told CNBC he expects the moviegoing attendance to permanently decline from 15% to 25% in 2022 despite the various virus vaccine coming on the market.

“That’s the way we’re gaming this out permanently,” Reagan said.

Movie Theater Stocks Take Pre-Market ‘Wonder Woman’ Bounce

With the relative release success of Wonder Woman 1984 suggesting consumers are willing to return to movie theaters during the pandemic, stocks of the publicly traded exhibitors inched higher in Dec. 28 pre-market trading.

Shares of AMC Entertainment and Cinemark Holdings, representing the No. 1 and No. 3 theatrical chains in the U.S., climbed 5.6% and 1.8%, respectively. No. 2 exhibitor Regal Cinemas remains temporarily shuttered. Separately, EPR Properties, landlord to many movie complexes, saw shares inch up 0.7%.

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In addition, Cinedigm, which has been looking to offload its digital projection business, saw shares increase 2.2% following the WW84 weekend.

The uptick comes as the exhibition business reels from the ongoing pandemic that has seen theatrical revenue plummet 80% heading into the Wonder Woman 1984 holiday weekend. AMC Theatres, the world’s largest exhibitor has been operating on the edge of bankruptcy, with cash reserves expected to run out in January without an uptick to business or outside funding.

Eric Wold, analyst with B. Riley Securities, said the relative early box office success of WW84, driven by more than 10,000 private watch parties, underscores the appeal of large screen exhibitions for the right movie.

“When consumers are allowed back to theaters with attractive content, they will once again become moviegoers,” Wold wrote.

Shawn Robbins, analyst at Boxoffice Pro, said that with WarnerMedia’s decision to release WW84 on HBO Max simultaneously with its theatrical debut, the jury remains out on the strategy’s impact on Hollywood and exhibitors.

“We’ll have to continue waiting until next year to truly gauge how studios feel about this strategy and for how much longer they’ll deem it necessary,” Robbins told Bloomberg. “This film alone may not be a great barometer to go by.”

Universal Ups Year-End Theatrical Slate; Studying Release-Window Data

Universal Pictures is doubling the number of movies it plans to release in theaters before the end of the year. The studio made waves earlier this year putting erstwhile theatrical release Trolls World Tour into homes via premium VOD in April. That was followed by a 17-day theatrical window/revenue-sharing PVOD agreement with AMC Theatres — Universal’s way of throwing the ailing exhibitor business a lifeline.

While the studio, like most majors, has pushed back numerous tentpole titles to 2021, including most-recently the next “Fast & Furious” installment, F9, to Memorial Day 2021, Universal will release at least seven movies at the box office through the end of the year — more than any other major studio.

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Upcoming theatrical releases include Let Him Go (Nov. 6),  Freaky (Nov. 13), The Croods: A New Age (Nov. 25), All My Life and Half Brothers (Dec. 4), and News of the World and Promising Young Woman (Dec. 25). Freaky and The Croods will also be available on PVOD 21 days and 28 days, respectively, after their box office debut.

“They need us; we need them,” Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, remarked about exhibitors in a media statement. “Everyone is looking for solutions during the pandemic for the short term and long term.”

Liam Neeson Drama ‘Honest Thief’ Tops Another Quiet Domestic Weekend Box Office

Open Roads Films’ thriller Honest Thief, starring Liam Neeson, finished atop another subdued domestic weekend box office, generating $3.7 million in North American ticket sales Oct. 16-18. Neeson plays a burglar who turns himself in, only to be double-crossed by the FBI.

The previous week’s topper, The War With Grandpa, starring Robert De Niro, finished second with $2.5 million. The movie from 101 Studios has generated $7.3 million in 10 days. Warner Bros.’ Tenet, from director Christopher Nolan, ended third on the weekend with $1.6 million, upping its domestic theatrical take to $50.6 million.

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U.S. movie ticket sales continue to be hamstrung by coronavirus pandemic-related theater closures in key markets and social distancing protocols in cinemas operating. In addition, studios continue to push back into 2021 major new tentpole releases living operating theaters with lower profile movies and re-releases.

Indeed, Disney re-releases The Nightmare Before Christmas and Hocus Pocus finished fourth and fifth over the weekend with $1.3 million and $756,000 in ticket sales, respectively.

Analyst: Lackluster Weekend Box Office Could See Studios Further Delay New Releases

With Warner Bros.’ Tenet generating $30 million at the domestic box office over two weekends, and Disney’s Mulan almost surpassed by a local sci-fi film (The Eight Hundred) at the Chinese box office, the jury remains out on the state of the theatrical market’s return to normal from the coronavirus pandemic.

The third-quarter domestic box office is trending down 96.8% quarter-to-date to $101.1 million compared with the previous-year period, as theaters nationwide only recently began re-opening — and at reduced capacity. The latest box office weekend was 89% lower than the comparable weekend last year, according to industry figures.

The sluggish re-start, coupled with a majority of screens still dark in major markets New York and California, suggests studios will reconsider bowing major new releases in any great numbers in the near future, according to Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

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Indeed, Warner just pushed back again the theatrical bow of Wonder Woman 1984 from Oct. 2 to Dec. 25 — more than a year after the sequel’s original launch date. Subsequent release dates included June4 and Aug. 14.

Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Tony Vinciquerra last week told an investor event the studio would delay all major releases until 2021.

“What we won’t do is make the mistake of putting a very, very expensive $200 million movie out in the market unless we’re sure that theaters are open and operating at significant capacity,” Vinciquerra said.

Pachter says that trend will only grow as nervous studios contend with wary moviegoers and local government restrictions.

“We think the relatively lackluster second theatrical week for Tenet juxtaposed with the difficulty Disney has faced with Mulan has made film releases seem like a risky business in the current environment,” Pachter wrote in a Sept. 14 note.

The uncertainty is bound to increase pressure on studios to shorten the 90-day theatrical window and seek alternative distribution channels such premium and transactional VOD. The COVID-19 era has produced unusual circumstances (and opportunities) for studios, including dabbling in direct-to-consumer distribution.

The ongoing interest for at-home content could impact long-term decisions by studios regarding which content they send to theaters and which goes direct to streaming platforms, according to Pachter.

“This is particularly compelling for the studios that have launched or will soon launch their own subscription/ad-supported streaming video platforms,” he wrote.