Survey: 77% Ready to Return to Theaters in a Few Months

An Atom Tickets survey found 77% of respondents were ready to return to theaters within a few months, with 25% willing to return immediately. Only 1% said they never plan to return to theaters.

Digital movie ticketing platform Atom surveyed more than 1,500 moviegoers about their moviegoing intentions in the midst of theaters’ temporary closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When asked to identify the most important safety measure to make them feel confident about going back to a movie theater, having spaced seating in the theater auditorium was by far the most critical safety feature at 42.2% or respondents. The next most critical safety measure was heightened theater cleaning procedures at 21.14%, followed by staff and guests wearing masks at 14.36%. Only 6.41% of moviegoers said taking staff and guest temperature readings before screenings was the most important condition that must be met before they would feel comfortable returning.

More than 88% said that purchasing digital tickets from their own device and eliminating the need to interact with a cashier was an important safety measure. As far as concessions, customers were interested ordering ahead and picking up their items instead of waiting in crowded lines and being served directly over the counter. Of those who have never pre-ordered movie theater concessions, 61% said they are now likely to try it.

Follow us on Instagram

“Moviegoers are telling us that they miss the experience of going to the movies and they’re ready to get back, but that the experience needs to look slightly different than before,” said Matthew Bakal, chairman and co-founder of Atom Tickets, in a statement. “We anticipate a rapid acceleration in digital ordering, just as we have seen in other industries, in order to reduce the amount of person-to-person interactions. We’re eager to resume being together with friends and family, but we want to do so responsibly. Atom is working with our theater partners to roll out spaced seat maps so that guests can see the steps being taken in order to provide a safe environment.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

In terms of films moviegoers were looking forward to seeing, the female superheroes led the pack with Black Widow and Wonder Woman 1984 taking 58% and 51% of votes, respectively. The James Bond installment No Time to Die, Disney’s Mulan and Top Gun: Maverick rounded out the top five. Millennial moviegoers weighed in slightly differently, with John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place Part 2 coming in third.

Comscore: Streaming Services’ Share of Streaming Hours Surged During Pandemic

Engagement with streaming services surged in the beginning of May 2020 as Americans adjusted to stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research from Comscore.

Among the “big five” streaming services — which still account for upwards of 80% of total hours streamed at home — Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ saw growth in share of streaming hours in the week of May 11 versus the week of Feb. 3, according to Comscore.

Netflix’s and Amazon’s streaming hour share each grew 1.5% while Disney+’s grew 0.5%. YouTube’s was steady, down just 0.1%. Hulu’s was the only share to fall, down 2.9%.

While Disney+ held a smaller share of streaming hours among the “big five,” it is nearly two times larger than the next video-oriented OTT app offering in terms of streaming hours, according to Comscore.

Follow us on Instagram

Other key points included:

  • Average in-home data consumption was up 33% during the first 10 days of May 2020 compared to the first ten days of May 2019 (May 1-10, 2020 versus May 1-10, 2019). This follows 28% and 36% year-over-year increases in March and April 2020, respectively. Smart TVs (+60 percent), mobile phones (+47 percent), streaming boxes/sticks (+39 percent), and smart speakers (+35 percent) are driving the year-over-year growth trends.
  • In-home data usage remained strong through the week of April 20, 2020 but began to decline in recent weeks, possibly due to some states easing their social distancing protocols.

DVD Format Getting Pandemic Boost

The boost in home entertainment options stemming from the stay-at-home phase of the coronavirus pandemic has apparently sparked a slight resurgence from an old friend: good ol’ DVD.

The 23-year-old standard-definition disc format has seen rapid declines for more than a decade with the rise of high-definition disc, digital delivery and streaming options. But the three-week period from April 19 to May 9 saw sales of film and TV content on DVD post the format’s best year-over-year showing in nearly seven years.

In the weeks ended April 25, May 2 and May 9, 2020, the DVD format posted revenue gains of 13%, 15% and 15.2%, respectively, compared to the similar time frame from a year ago, according to data obtained by Media Play News research. Unit sales during the three weeks were up 10%, 14.4% and 13%, respectively.

Put another way, for the three-week period as a whole, the DVD format was up 14.4% in revenue and 12.5% in unit sales compared with the same three weeks a year ago.

For perspective, the high-definition Blu-ray format was up 9.6% in revenue and 7.4% in units the week ended April 25, but down 4% and 7.7% in revenue, and 6.2% and 9.5% in unit sales the subsequent two weeks, as DVD was rising. For the three weeks, Blu-ray was down 0.8% in revenue and down 2.9% in units sold.

The top title for the weeks ended April 25 and May 2 was Bad Boys for Life, and for May 9 it was Bloodshot, both Sony Pictures releases. The charts were also boosted by lingering performance from earlier hit releases such as Disney’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Sony’s Jumanji: The Next Level.

In terms of revenue, this is the first time DVD saw yearly gains two weeks in a row since April 2014, when Frozen was driving industry sales. It’s the first three-week gain since late-August 2012, when The Hunger Games and Battleship were the top titles.

From the perspective of unit sales, it marks the first two-week year-over-year gain just for DVD since Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit the charts in April 2016. And it’s the first three-week gain since the Christmas season in 2012.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The recent spike may owe to a variety of factors beyond a renewed interest in home entertainment from citizens waiting out the pandemic at home. Streaming services and digital sales were on the rise prior to the pandemic, and shelter-in-place orders only aided their momentum. According to the NPD Group, even DVD and Blu-ray players have seen sales gains compared with last year around this time.

An increase in just the older DVD format could be the result of an increase in impulse bargain bin buys during grocery runs, especially at stories such as Walmart and Target where $5 catalog DVD sections are common. However, the average cost of a DVD is actually up 1.74% during the three-week period, indicating sales of the newer titles are significantly contributing to the surge.

Also, the selection of titles offered during the comparable period in 2019 seems to have been especially weak compared with now. The box office performance of titles released during the three-week period is up 25% over the same period a year ago, though most of that owes to Bad Boys for Life.

The top titles from the year-ago period were the second week of Glass, the sixth week of Aquaman, and the debut of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.

It also seems that the recent top releases have audiences that prefer the DVD version compared with other big-screen hits. For example, Bad Boys for Life during the three weeks saw about a 50/50 split between Blu-ray and DVD formats.

Compare this with movies such as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker or Frozen II, which each saw more than 70% of their unit sales for their first three weeks on shelves come from Blu-ray formats. Bad Boys for Life hews more toward the Blu-ray performance of Hobbs & Shaw (55% Blu-ray its first three weeks) or Jumanji: The Next Level (54%). Bloodshot’s first-week Blu-ray share was 57%.

Follow us on Instagram!

The gains by DVD also pushed overall disc revenue and unit sales (DVD and Blu-ray combined) in the respective weeks up over the comparable week the previous year. it’s the first three-week year-over-year overall revenue gain since March 17 to 31, 2018, when Justice League, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrived to market in consecutive weeks. And it’s the first three-week overall unit gain since Force Awakens and The Revenant were driving sales to a four-week uptick in April 2016.

For 2020 as a whole, though, DVD remains down about 18.5% in revenue and 20.5% in units sold compared with the same period in the previous year. DVD and Blu-ray combined is down about 19.5% in revenue from the previous year and 21% in unit sales.

In the second quarter so far, however, DVD is only down about 9.7% in revenue and 8.8% in units sold compared with the previous year. In the first quarter, DVD was down about 22.3% in revenue from the first three months of 2019, and down 25.3% in revenue during that same period.

For comparison, Blu-ray Disc is down 12.8% in revenue and 17.7% in unit sales in the second quarter compared with the year-ago period. In the first quarter, Blu-ray was down 23.5% in revenue and 24% in units sold.

Sales Report for Week Ended 5-9-20
Sales Report for Week Ended 5-2-20
Sales Report for Week Ended 4-25-20

COVID-19 Hangover: 60% of Scripted Releases at Risk of Delay

Audiences and the industry can expect disruption to the supply and release of new content for more than a year as a result of production delays caused by COVID-19, according to a new report by Ampere Analysis.

The report finds 60% of scripted releases at risk of delay and a further 5% to 10% that may be lost entirely.

“Our analysis indicates that the unscripted market will more easily weather the current pandemic thanks to the production of non-location-based, and COVID-related, content,” according to Ampere. “However, the delay of summer ‘blockbusters’ like ‘The Bachelorette’ and ‘Love Island’ will have a negative impact on even the unscripted sector. We predict the scripted sector will take a far bigger hit: even if production is able to restart in June, underlying effects of the shutdown will be felt in the scripted TV market for the remainder of 2020, and well into 2021.”

In the second half of 2020, Ampere expects that the world’s top TV commissioners will release between 5% to 10% fewer new scripted titles on a monthly basis than previously predicted. The effect will last into the first half of 2021, and potentially longer.

Over half of scripted titles which would normally have released in the second half of 2020 are at risk of delays in release schedules due to the current production hiatus. Titles scheduled for release from June to August are likely to largely be in post-production, and Ampere expects delays will be more limited for this period.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The number of scripted TV titles at risk of delay remains high for a year, with impact particularly intense at the traditional start of the broadcast season in the autumn. At this point, between 50% and 60% of scripted titles that would normally have been released in the period are at risk of delay by Ampere’s estimates. A further 5% to 10% of scripted titles expected to have been released during the autumn months are likely be lost entirely due to the current production shutdown, Ampere predicts. The proportion of scripted releases unaffected by the shutdown only rises above 40% in March 2021.

Compared to 2019, only 51% of scripted projects ordered during March through May 2019 have been released to date. With commissioning of scripted content down by 40% in the equivalent period of 2020, Ampere predicts the current lack of commissions will impact the supply of content well into 2021.

Follow us on Instagram

“There is one certainty among the current uncertainty — that the COVID-19 pandemic will change the TV production industry far beyond the end of the lockdown,” Ampere senior analyst Fred Black said in a statement. “Initially, we expect delays to cause gaps in scripted TV release schedules, which broadcasters and streaming players will have to fill with other content. However, as delayed productions begin to fill out content gaps in later months, these gaps will begin to close. But this has further ramifications. The knock-on effect of delayed releases is a likely depression of the number of new commissions for some time after the shutdown ends, as commissioners look to fill schedules with delayed projects they have already invested in before signing off new ones.”

Unscripted content is set to bounce back quicker, according to Ampere. While a number of unscripted commissions expected over Q2 and Q3 2020 will be delayed, Ampere predicts release schedules will begin to return to normal by the autumn, with the percentage of titles unaffected rising to 71% by October. The biggest misses in the unscripted space are likely to be returning summer series that cannot go into production, such as reality stalwarts ‘Love Island’ and ‘The Bachelorette.’ Unscripted commissions have actually increased in comparison to the same period last year, partly to fill schedule gaps left by delayed or cancelled scripted series. However, a large proportion of these titles have been COVID-19-specific commissions. If this content is excluded, unscripted commissions have been down 27% since the beginning of March. Unlike scripted content, commissioners can typically order enough adapted unscripted content during lockdown to cover normal numbers of new unscripted releases, as well as help cover schedule gaps from delayed or cancelled scripted content.

Commissioners are currently creating a large number of extra unscripted projects which can be used to cover gaps in the schedule left by delayed titles or the missed scripted commissions,” said Black in a statement. “This number of extra commissions will begin to wane as the shutdown ends, with audience appetite for COVID-19-specific content already showing signs of falling.”

Report: 60% of MVPD On-Demand Viewers Report Increase in Use During Pandemic

Six in 10 U.S adult broadband users who use pay-TV on-demand services have increased viewing as a result of COVID-19 stay-at-home directives, with 19% reporting a significant increase, according to new research from The Diffusion Group (TDG).

“Much has been written about recent spikes in the use of on-demand streaming video services such as Netflix and Disney+, and for good reason,” noted Michael Greeson, TDG president and principal analyst, in a statement. “Our findings clearly demonstrate that, being largely confined to their homes, consumers see tremendous value in having access to on-demand shows and movies. And this holds true for all such services, including those offered by pay-TV providers.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

According to TDG, 77% of adult broadband users that subscribe to a pay-TV service watch shows and movies via the service’s on-demand feature; of those, 60% report spending more time watching on-demand programming as a consequence of having to stay at home due to local, state or national directives related to COVID-19.

TDG also found that:

  • On-demand viewers under the age of 45 were almost twice as likely as those 45 and older to have significantly increased on-demand use (23% vs. 13%, respectively);
  • 21% of those using virtual pay-TV on-demand report significant increases in viewing, a bit higher than their cable and fiber pay-TV counterparts at 19%. Satellite on-demand viewers lag in this respect, with only 13% reporting significant increases;
  • 23% of pay-TV on-demand users in the Western U.S. report a significant increase in use, compared with 19% of those in the Northeast, 18% of those in the South, and 16% of those in the Midwest; and
  • Female pay-TV on-demand viewers were as likely as their male counterparts to have significantly increased on-demand viewing under stay-at-home directives.

 

Follow us on Instagram

In late April 2020, TDG surveyed 1,997 U.S. adults with a broadband data service in the home about their TV and video behaviors. The resulting Quantum Media Behaviors study provides a timely analysis of the pandemic’s impact on media usage, particularly among legacy and virtual pay-TV users, and their counterparts (i.e., Cord Cutters and Nevers). For more information about TDG research, contact info@tdgresearch.com.

Universal Studios Orlando to Partially Re-Open May 14

The move to re-open amusement parks in Florida (and China) is turning into a race. Universal Studios May 12 announced it would partially re-open operations in Orlando, Fla., on May 14 — six days ahead of the phased re-opening of the Disney Springs shopping and dining complex on May 20.

Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Hollywood remain shuttered through the end of the month. Universal Studios Orlando has been shuttered since mid-March due the coronavirus pandemic.

Similarly to Disney Springs and Downtown Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland in Beijing, Universal Studios Orlando CityWalk will require visitors to wear a mask and be subject to temperature checks on arrival.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek said he has been pleased with first-week ticket sales for Shanghai Park, which are limited to 27,000 per government stipulation. Disney has limited attendance to less than that, with plans to increase the number of weekly visitors by 5,000.

“We’re very encouraged by what we see in Shanghai,” Chapek said in a media interview. The executive said plans call for bringing back theme park cast members first, “but in a responsible way.”

Chapek agreed forcing all U.S. park visitors to wear a mask will be a challenge in light of politicization efforts in parts of the country in response to government-mandated business shutdowns due to the pandemic.

“That will be something that will be a little trying for some guests, particularly in the hot, humid summers that we tend to have,” Chapek told The Hollywood Reporter.

AMC Theatres Stock Skyrockets on Amazon Buy Scuttlebutt

Shares of AMC Entertainment, parent of fiscally challenged AMC Theatres, are up nearly 30% in pre-market trading May 11 following news Amazon has been kicking the tires about a possible acquisition.

Amazon’s acquisition interest, first reported by The Daily Mail citing sources, would give the e-commerce behemoth greater control of the global box office. Amazon, unlike Netflix, remains a believer in the theatrical window — a stance some observers contend helped its 2016 movie, Manchester by the Sea, win Oscars for Best Actor (Casey Affleck) and Best Screenplay (Kenneth Lonergan).

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

AMC, the world’s largest movie exhibitor, is owned by China’s Wanda Group and is reportedly facing bankruptcy since the chain (with 11,000 screens) was shuttered in March due to the coronavirus. With zero revenue and about $4.7 billion in debt, many analysts believe the chain won’t survive in the post-COVID-19 economy amid social distancing.

Amazon, which reported profit of $2.5 billion in its most-recent fiscal period, has shown interest in non-tech, old-school businesses such as acquiring Whole Foods and the Washington Post.

Follow us on Instagram

In 2018, Amazon (and Netflix) reportedly had interest in Mark Cuban’s Landmark Theatres chain, which ultimately was sold to Cohen Media Group.

Meanwhile, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson just announced new coronavirus guidelines, which include easing lockdown restrictions by July on hospitality businesses such as Odeon Cinemas — which is owned by AMC.

AMC CEO Adam Aron, who remains furloughed along with 600 other executives, has publicly expressed a wish that the chain could be operational by July.

In Georgia, despite Gov. Brian Kemp allowing exhibitors to re-open April 27, most major chains remain shuttered due to new studio movie releases being pushed back and a lack of theater staffing.

Regardless, Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, contends the acquisition rumor is just that.

“The price is [would be] $10 billion, not a few hundred million,” Pachter said in an email. “I don’t see Amazon buying the biggest theater chain in the world when they can accomplish the same thing buying a much smaller chain. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Another 3.2 Million Added to Weekly Unemployment Roll

The U.S. Department of Labor May 7 said 3.2 million people filed unemployment claims for the week ended May 2. The filings come on top of more than 30 million claims filed over the previous six weeks.

The previous week’s level was revised upward by 7,000 from 3.83 million 3.84 million. The four-week moving average was 4.17 million, a decrease of 861,500 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 1,750 from 5.033 million to 5.035 million.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The agency also announced the award of six “Dislocated Worker Grants” (DWGs) totaling more than $10 million to help address the workforce-related impacts of the public health emergency related to the coronavirus. These awards are funded under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provided $345 million for DWGs to prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus.

Follow us HERE on Twitter

Disney+ Tops 54.5 Million Subs as Video Biz Balloons Revenue — and Costs

The Walt Disney Co’s aggressive move into over-the-top video distribution through Disney+, Hulu+ and ESPN+ continues to generate market share, revenue and costs.

Speaking on the May 5 fiscal call, CFO Christine McCarthy said Disney+ topped 54.5 million paid subscribers through May 4.

Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer and International revenue for the second quarter (ended March 28) increased from $1.1 billion to $4.1 billion, while the operating loss increased from $385 million to $812 million. The increase in operating loss was due to costs associated with the launch of Disney+ and the consolidation of Hulu (from co-owner Comcast).

Follow us on Instagram

Disney+ ended the quarter with 33.5 million paid subscribers, which increased to 50 million subs in May after international launches. Hulu ended the quarter with more than 32 million subs.

Notably, Disney forwent $1.5 billion in revenue when it opted to direct select movies and TV shows to Disney+ and Hulu. That compared with revenue of $252 million in the previous-year period and $41 million in Q1.

The eliminations of segment operating income in the current quarter were due to sales of studio titles to Disney+ driven by Frozen II, The Lion King, Toy Story 4 and Aladdin and sales of ABC Studios and 20th Century Fox Television titles to Hulu.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Results for the quarter also reflected a benefit from the inclusion of the 20th Century Fox businesses due to income at the international channels, including Disney+ Star.

Walt Disney Studios Q2 Biz Deflects Pandemic; Worse Still to Come

With the extent of the coronavirus not impacting its studio operations until March, Walt Disney Studios May 5 revealed it managed to avoid a fiscal catastrophe in the second quarter (ended March 28).

Studio revenue for the quarter increased 18% to $2.5 billion, and segment operating income decreased 8% from the previous-year period to $466 million. The decrease in operating income was due to lower results at legacy operations, partially offset by the consolidation of the 20th Century Fox businesses that Disney took over a year ago. The decrease at legacy operations was due to higher film impairments and decreases in theatrical distribution and stage-play results, partially offset by an increase from TV/SVOD distribution.

Follow us on Instagram

Theatrical distribution in the quarter was still negatively impacted by COVID-19 as theaters closed domestically beginning in mid-March and internationally at various times beginning late January.

Theatrical distribution results in the quarter included an increase in bad debt expense and also reflected an adverse impact from COVID-19 on the performance of Onward, which was released domestically on March 6. Other significant titles in the current quarter included Frozen II and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker compared to Captain Marvel, Mary Poppins Returns and Dumbo in the prior-year quarter.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Stage-play results in the quarter were negatively impacted as live entertainment theaters also were closed. Growth in TV/SVOD distribution results was due to sales of content to Disney+ driven by The Lion King, Toy Story 4, Frozen II and Aladdin. This was partially offset by a decrease in sales to third parties in the pay and free television windows. The benefit from the Fox businesses reflected income from TV/SVOD distribution, partially offset by a loss from theatrical distribution and general and administrative costs. Fox theatrical releases in the current quarter included The Call of the Wild and Downhill.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has had an appreciable financial impact on a number of our businesses, we are confident in our ability to withstand this disruption and emerge from it in a strong position,” CEO Bob Chapek said in a statement. “Disney has repeatedly shown that it is exceptionally resilient, bolstered by the quality of our storytelling and the strong affinity consumers have for our brands, which is evident in the extraordinary response to Disney+ since its launch last November.”

This is Disney’s first earnings report with former home entertainment chief Chapek as CEO. Former CEO Bob Iger in February said he would turn the reins of the company over to Chapek, who previously had run the parks division, and transition to executive chairman.

Just weeks after Chapek officially took over, the novel coronavirus led to a succession of stay-at-home orders throughout the country, and Iger stepped back in work with Chapek on day-to-day operations, according to a New York Times report.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit Disney particularly hard. Movie theaters have shuttered, productions have shut down, live sporting events have been canceled and theme parks are closed indefinitely. Theme parks accounted for 37% of Disney’s $69.6 billion total revenue in 2019.

Disney said it expects the pandemic to negatively impact the company by $1.4 billion in the current third quarter, which ends June 30.

To cut costs, Disney has furloughed thousands of workers, mostly across theme parks and resorts; taken out a $5 billion line of credit; and slashed executive pay, including a 50% pay cut for Chapek. Iger is forgoing his salary, according CNBC.