Blockbusters fail to lift box-office gloom

LOS ANGELES •This was supposed to be the summer when Hollywood blew the doors off theatres. Stay home and stream? Not with Simba, Spider-Man, John Wick, Buzz Lightyear, Aladdin, the X-Men and Godzilla on the way.

Instead, the film business finds itself lagging behind last year's surge. From the first weekend in May to Labour Day (on Sept 2 this year), a period that can account for as much as 40 per cent of annual movie ticket sales, box-office revenue in the United States and Canada is expected to total about US$4.32 billion (S$6.02 billion).

This is a 2 per cent decline from the same period last year, according to tracker Comscore.

For the year, revenue from ticket sales is down 6.3 per cent, which roughly translates to a 5 per cent decline in attendance.

That is despite the runaway success of Avengers: Endgame, a Disney-Marvel superhero movie that arrived in late April and collected a record-breaking US$2.8 billion worldwide, with nearly US$860 million of that in North America.

Hollywood could make up ground in the coming months with potential blockbusters such as It: Chapter 2, Joker, Frozen 2, Jumanji: The Next Level, Cats and Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker.

Speciality distributors have high hopes for South Korean film Parasite, which took the top prize at Cannes, and Downton Abbey.

But box-office experts say the theatrical landscape has shifted, possibly permanently.

Before it drowned in red ink, MoviePass, the cut-rate ticket subscription service, trained fans to expect deep discounts.

Streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime have proliferated, offering huge catalogues of movies and shows for a comparatively low price.

"Pricing was never an impediment to going to the movies and it is now," said Mr Chris Aronson, a former distribution chief for 20th Century Fox who now runs a consultancy.

"Streaming services have come along with such attractively priced entertainment that theatres can't compete, except on a handful of event movies that people absolutely must see."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2019, with the headline 'Blockbusters fail to lift box-office gloom'. Print Edition | Subscribe