Disney, Universal Suspend Box Office Data Reporting

With most movie theaters shuttered due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus, Walt Disney Studios and Universal Pictures say they are suspending reporting box office results. The move comes after domestic weekend ticket sales plummeted to a 20-year low and most screens around the world remain closed.

While Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate and other studios have announced similar actions, they are expected to follow suit.

The move late March 19 by Universal and Disney comes as California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered state residents to remain at home as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, which has claimed the lives of 10,000 people globally. The United States saw COVID-19 infections more than double on Thursday.

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“Given the current large number of theater shutdowns around the globe, Disney will suspend global weekend reporting for the time being. Wishing you and your families the best during these testing times and please be safe,” Disney said in a media statement.

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Media analyst Michael Pachter downgraded AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest exhibitor with more than 1,000 theatres, to “neutral” rating heading into the weekend.

“If closures last longer than we estimate, AMC would need additional relief from either government assistance, rent relief from landlords, or additional sources of cash in order to avoid a potential breach of debt covenants, which could force debt restructuring,” Pachter wrote in a March 20 note.

 

Weekend Domestic Box Office Plummets to 20-Year Low

As expected, the weekend domestic theatrical box office tanked as exhibitors limited seating capacity and local governments called for no large group gatherings in an effort to thwart the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

With studios scaling back new releases such as Disney’s Mulan and Paramount Pictures’ The Quiet Place Part II, among others, the North American box office tallied just $55.3 million — the worst total in nearly two decades, according to comScore.

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For the second consecutive weekend the top-grossing title was Disney’s Onward with $10.5 million, which represented a 73% drop from the animated film’s original weekend release — the largest decline ever for a Pixar Animation movie.

Lionsgate’s faith-based I Still Believe was second with $9.5 million, followed by Sony Pictures’ Bloodshot, starring Vin Diesel, which generated $9.3 million. Universal Pictures’ The Hunt grossed $5.3 million followed by the studio’s The Invisible Man.

While major exhibitor chains scale back operations, the virus pandemic is wreaking havoc for smaller independent theaters.

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“There are a lot of independent theaters out there and we’ve got to worry about our landlords, we’ve got to worry about paying rent, paying employees, taxes,” Jeff Brein, who operates nine indie theaters in the Seattle area, told The Wall Street Journal. “It would be a horrible thing to come out of this thing on the other side and having lost a number of community-based small theaters that were unable to survive.”

 

Iger: Disney Sticking to 90-Day Theatrical Window

Late last year, Disney CEO Bob Iger said the company was considering steps to expedite access to select studio box office titles into retail channels — a move that could shorten the venerable 90-day theatrical window for new-release movies.

No sooner had he said that, Iger reiterated his ongoing support affording exhibitors such as AMC Theatres and Regal exclusive access to movies upon release.

“We have a studio that is doing extremely well and a [release window] formula that is serving us really well in terms of its bottom line,” he said last November.

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Indeed, any mention of shortening Disney’s massive theatrical gravy train for the sake of earlier access on DVD/Blu-ray Disc and digital, seemed shortsighted.

Disney ended 2019 with seven movies each generating more than $1 billion at the global box office. The studio ended the previous fiscal year with nearly $10 billion in ticket sales.

Regardless, the seeds of doubt had been sowed, prompting one analyst on the Feb. 4 Q1 fiscal call to ask Iger if he would “recommit to the theatrical window.”

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“The theatrical window is working for this company, and we have no plans to adjust it for our business,” Iger responded.

With upstart Disney+ streaming service getting every original studio release, domestic exhibitors saw a near 7% decline in tickets sold in 2019 compared to 2018.

Iger suggested the analyst’s question was a reflection how other studios are positioning their films and distribution business.

“We’re not the only movie company,” he said. “I suspect that [questions about the window are] not due to us or either a lack of conviction on our part or any suspicion that we might not be telling the truth. It’s working for us, and we have no plans in the foreseeable future to change it.”

 

Disney Sets Home Release Dates, Extras for ‘The Lion King’ Remake

The live-action-style, computer-animated remake of The Lion King is coming home in October.

The film, the year’s No. 2 movie with a $534 million domestic box office haul, will be released on Digital 4K Ultra HD on Oct. 11 and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and regular Blu-ray Disc on Oct. 22, the Walt Disney Co. announced Sept. 16.

The home release comes with over an hour of bonus features that showcase the technology behind the savanna and provide a closer look at the film’s music.

Directed by Jon Favreau, the summer blockbuster’s home release is highlighted by “The Journey to The Lion King,” a three-part documentary that explores the film’s creation. It features visits to the Playa Vista production facility where talent, including Donald Glover (voice of Simba) interpret the original animated classic’s iconic music; discussions with Favreau and team about the technology they used create photorealistic animals and environments; and filmmaker and cast reflections on the story.

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Extras also include “More to Be Scene,” featuring layer-by-layer progressions of some of the film’s key moments; a lyric video for “Never Too Late” by Elton John and music video for “Spirit” by Beyoncé; sing-alongs to the film’s other songs; and a feature on the “Protect the Pride” campaign, which focuses on protecting and revitalizing the lion population.

Consumers who order The Lion King digitally in advance will gain access to “Perfecting the Pride,” a feature highlighting the filmmakers’ research trip to Africa.

The digital version also includes an extra that conveys the importance of the dung beetle, both in the film and in real life, on the African savanna.

In The Lion King, Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny. But Scar, Mufasa’s brother — and former heir to the throne — has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock ultimately leads to Simba’s exile. With help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba will have to figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his. The all-star cast includes Glover as Simba, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala, James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Seth Rogen as Pumbaa and Billy Eichner as Timon.

Disney says The Lion King “will be packaged and released in several different formats, ensuring each member of your family can view the film on a variety of different devices with no worries. Viewers can watch the film in Digital 4K Ultra HD, HD and SD, and bring home a physical copy of the film which will be released as an Ultimate Collector’s Edition (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital Code), a Multi-Screen Edition (Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Code) and a single DVD.”

The original The Lion King is traditionally animated and was released in 1994. It sold 32 million VHS videocassettes and, years later, another 12 million DVDs and nearly 4 million Blu-ray Discs.

Ted Sarandos: 20 Million People Streamed ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ the First Week on Netflix

Netflix doesn’t release ratings or viewership data for original programming.

But that didn’t stop Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos from disclosing that 20 million people streamed original feature-length movie The Christmas Chronicles, starring Kurt Russell as a brash-talking (and singing) Santa Claus, during its first week of release.

Speaking Dec. 3 at the UBS 46th Annual Global Media and Communications confab in New York, Sarandos conveyed that Russell told him none of his movies had ever attracted that many viewers in the first seven days of release.

“That’s a testimony … we can bring to the market for storytellers today,” Sarandos said. “We probably couldn’t have done that 10 years ago.”

The executive used the anecdote to underscore his long-running battle against the 90-day theatrical window. A mindset that Sarnados believes all theatrical releases should be made available across all distribution channels simultaneously.

“If every one of those views was a movie purchase, that’s a $200 million opening week,” he said. “Even movies that go on to make $1 billion, don’t typically do that the first week. The ability to tap into that big audience differentiates us from everybody else.”

It’s controversial stance that has resulted in exhibitors, film festivals and Hollywood largely shunning Netflix films at the box office and awards circuit. Critics contend the SVOD giant is leaving money on the table, undermining content creators, producers and actors financially by streaming new-release movies globally to subscribers paying $9 a month for access.

Sarandos disagrees, arguing his approach to distribution simply bucks the tradition around the opening box office weekend.

“It’s saying, ‘I really want my movie in the culture. I want people to talk about my movie in line at Starbucks,’” Sarandos said. “I want to be the topic of discussion with my story that I’ve invested my entire life telling.”

Sarandos said studio executives grew up in a world where that was the definition of the Zeitgeist: Being the No. 1 movie at the box office.

Separately, the executive expressed little concern about pending over-the-top video platforms from Disney and WarnerMedia.

He said the new competition has been on management’s mind for a while and prompted Netflix’s foray into original programming years ago with “House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “Lilyhammer,” “Arrested Development,” and “Hemlock Grove,” among others.

“They represented everything from comedy to drama to horror,” Sarandos said.

Netflix is now a global producer of on-demand content across all genres, including 20 original unscripted TV shows streaming this year compared to zero last year.

The service will stream 70 local-language original shows in 2019. Sarandos said local productions featuring local casts and language are becoming worldwide hits, including most-recently Germany’s “Dark,” Denmark’s “The Rain,” and India’s “Sacred Games”.

“They have been remarkably relevant in their home countries,” he said. “We’re not trying to make Hollywood content for the world. We’re trying to make content from anywhere in the world to the rest of the world.

Netflix just released “Bodyguard,” a joint venture with the BBC, underscoring the fact 80% of new subscriber growth is originating internationally, which mandates global – not Hollywood – content production, according to Sarandos.

“We’re better off deciding our own destiny and making our own choices with the consumer in mind than a bunch of competitors in mind,” Sarandos said. “Some of those things [third-party SVOD services] will successful, but not to the detriment of Netflix.”

 

 

 

 

China Streaming Video Service iQiYi Opens First On-Demand Movie Theater

Chinese online video platform iQiYi has launched what it claims is the first on-demand movie theater in the world.

Dubbed “China’s Netflix,” iQiYi May 20 officially opened the “Yuke” on-demand movie theater in Zhongshan, Guangdong, enabling consumers to select a movie online and watch it at a Yuke theater. The six-seat theaters include Dolby audio, reclined seating and other enhanced features not available in the typical Chinese household.

China is one of the largest film production countries in the world generating nearly a thousand films annually. In 2017, a total of 970 films were produced, yet only 487 of them were played in theaters, according to iQiYi. As the national income level continues to rise in China, consumer demand for cinema viewing is rising.

The company – which is owned by China’s online search giant Baidu and launched an IPO on Wall Street earlier this year – said it working to bring Yuke movie theaters to first- and second-tier cities throughout China.

“The development of on-demand movie theaters poses an exciting opportunity to increase the strength and overall scale of China’s film industry,” Yang Xianghua, SVP at iQiYi, said in a statement. “[We] will take advantage of our strong brand awareness, massive user base, popular content and advanced technology to contribute to the growth of this booming market and extend our premium viewing experience to offline consumers.”

At the end of March, iQiYi had 61.3 million subscribers. Going forward, iQiYi said it would combine online and offline subscriber bases to integrate retail services and offline consumption with related merchandise for purchase in cinemas.

MPAA Report: Worldwide Consumer Theatrical and Home Entertainment Spending Reached $88.4 Billion in 2017

Consumer spending for the combined theatrical and home entertainment markets reached $88.4 billion worldwide, according to new theatrical and home entertainment data released by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

The global box office reached a new record high of $40.6 billion in 2017 – up 5% from the previous year. Home entertainment consumer spending also increased globally in 2017 to hit $47.8 billion, up 11% from 2016.

That’s according to the 2017 Theatrical and Home Entertainment Market Environment report, or THEME, which includes new information on the home entertainment market in addition to global box office figures and a moviegoer demographic survey.

“With more stories and more storytelling mediums than ever, our industry continues to adapt to an ever-changing world,” said MPAA chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin. “The global entertainment market is expanding on multiple fronts, constantly innovating to deliver an unparalleled experience to audiences worldwide. In 2017, not only did the global box office hit yet another record high, the number of subscriptions to online video services around the world jumped 33 percent to reach 446.8 million.”

“With the global box office continuing to grow and movies drawing younger, more diverse audiences, we see a bright future for theatrical entertainment,” said John Fithian, president and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO). “We are relentlessly innovating, investing in top-notch cinema infrastructure and advanced technology, to give audiences the very best movie experience.”

In 2017, global home entertainment consumer spending increased by 11% to $47.8 billion, and in the United States, the home entertainment market increased 5% from 2016 to $20.5 billion. Other findings:

  • The number of subscriptions to online video services around the world grew to 446.8 million in 2017 – a 33 percent increase compared to 2016.
  • Online video content viewing in the United States continued to increase in 2017, reaching 167.5 billion views and transactions – a 41 percent jump compared to 2016.
  • Americans now spend 49 percent of their media time on a digital platform.

 

The global box office’s record high was driven by a 7% increase in international markets ($29.5 billion), in large part due to growth in China. Japan, the United Kingdom, India, and South Korea rounded out the top five international markets after China. Cinema screens increased 8% globally in 2017, reaching just over 170,000, led by continued double digit growth in the Asia Pacific region (up 16%).

In the United States and Canada, while the domestic box office did not quite reach last year’s record of $11.4 billion, it matched 2015’s previous high of $11.1 billion. Other domestic findings include:

  • More than three-quarters of the population (263 million people) went to the cinema at least once last year.
  • The gender composition of this audience was even among men and women – 50-50.
  • More young people and diverse populations went to the movies in 2017. Audiences between the ages of 12 and 17 attended an average of 4.9 movies over the course of the year – more than any other age group, and closely followed by 18 to 24 year olds (4.7).
  • Per capita attendance was highest among Latino (4.5) and Asian (4.3) audiences.

MoviePass: $129 Million Generated for Oscar-Nominated Films

Helios and Matheson Analytics – corporate parent of MoviePass – Feb. 6 announced the subscription theatrical ticket service has generated $128.7 million for select Oscar-nominated since last November. In addition, it claims MoviePass contributed 5.7% to the total nationwide box office.

In addition to offering subscribers access to one theatrical screening daily for $9.95 monthly fee, MoviePass is banking its survival — and offsetting theatrical disruptor mantra — on moviegoer data. Information, it can market and sell.

The service said it contributed significantly to the nominees, keeping attendance up past opening week. It said the percentage of domestic revenue generated for Best Picture nominees, included Call Me By Your Name (8.79%), Lady Bird (6.18%), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (6.89%), The Shape of Water (7.87%), and The Post (5.57%).

MoviePass also contributed 11.48% for I, Tonya, and 7.57% for The Square.

“MoviePass is actively driving movie-goers to the theater at a critical moment in the year,” Mitch Lowe, CEO of MoviePass, said in a statement. “At a time with ‘For Your Consideration’ billboards up all over Tinseltown, we are promoting these pictures to our MoviePass subscribers. I believe more people are connected with these films now and MoviePass has created more exposure for these nominees and the Oscars.”

Ted Farnsworth, CEO of Helios and Matheson Analytics, which acquired a majority stake in MoviePass in 2017, contends the service contributed 4.6%, 5.6%, and 5.7%, respectively, over the past three weeks to total nationwide box office.

“I believe we can serve as a catalyst for success in the entire movie industry,” said Farnsworth.