Can Disney Blockbusters Save Cinemas?
Not sure about you, but I’ve spent a whole lot of cash at the theater this year.
What with Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, Aladdin, and Toy Story 4 (not to mention Spider-Man: Far From Home) – Disney (Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm) has been busy building a fantastic cadre of films to keep fans coming to the cinema during 2019.
Even the Avengers Aren’t Strong Enough
However, it’s not enough:
Bloomberg’s Tara Lachapelle mused:
Walt Disney Co. is almost single-handedly propping up the U.S. box office this year. That doesn’t bode well for the theater industry, because 2019 may be as good as it gets for Disney’s movie-making business.
Just $5.62 billion of tickets have been sold in North American movie theaters, about a 10% drop from the first half of last year, according to Box Office Mojo. Disney, which has released a blockbuster a month since March, starting with “Captain Marvel,” drove more than a third of those ticket sales. That’s by far the biggest share the company has ever taken – and that’s not including the films Disney inherited from its recent $85 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox…
[However] theater operator AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. is reluctantly shattering another [record]: Its stock dropped to an all-time low on Tuesday. AMC has declined 25% year to date, amid sluggish attendance at its multiplexes. After its market value slid below the $1 billion mark last week, the company is worth barely more than the $835 million it paid to acquire Carmike Cinemas three years ago.
2020 Will be Even Tougher
Even as Avengers: Endgame rolls through a re-release that might push Cap and Co. beyond the reach of Avatar for the top box office spot of all time, Lachapelle believes that movie theaters are in for an even tougher year in 2020.
Disney’s success this year will be quite difficult to repeat, as I wrote in April. Its studios have fewer blockbusters slated for next year, and it’s also slowing down production of future “Star Wars” films. After Episode IX, the next Lucasfilm release isn’t until December 2022. Disney has also delayed “Avatar 2,” a franchise that came with its Fox deal, until December 2021. That means any resurgence in the theater industry may be at least two years away.
As for the theaters themselves, there’s the question of whether Disney decides to reserve future smaller Fox films for its own streaming apps instead of sending them to the big screen. Disney+, the company’s version of Netflix, launches in November, and it plans to somehow bundle the product with Hulu, which it now controls.
While Disney tries to drive subscriptions for those services, it’ll need to make tough calls about where to direct spending and premiere its content. Its competitors, such as Warner Bros. parent AT&T Inc. and Universal Pictures parent Comcast Corp., will have to do the same.
RIP Movie Theaters?
All of this bodes ill for us frequent movie-goers.
I love the whole thing. The posters, the popcorn, the pageantry; but the scene has changed. Anecdotally, Fewer folks are joining me at the local cineplex. There are PLENTY of seats in the theater on opening nights and preview showings – it’s weird.
And, darn it, a single night at the movies is getting even MORE EXPENSIVE.
I’d also have to admit that cleanliness of theaters (and bathrooms, yuck), bland food, and — yes — stale popcorn make it hard to keep going to the big theaters; especially when the discount second-run cinemas make for a terrific, laid-back event (especially if they offer real popcorn and diner-style food).
But what do you think? Will you keep going to the movies?