Hollywood not enjoying hot summer at box office in North America

Despite a summer release schedule that included Lion King, the film business finds itself lagging last year's surge.
Despite a summer release schedule that included Lion King, the film business finds itself lagging last year's surge.PHOTO: WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES

LOS ANGELES (NYTimes) - 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 last year's surge.

From the first weekend in May to Labour Day (Sept 2), 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 like It: Chapter 2, Joker, Frozen 2, Jumanji: The Next Level, Cats and Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker.

Speciality distributors have high hopes for Bong Joon-ho's Parasite, which was the top prize winner 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, especially younger ones, to expect deep discounts.

Streaming services like 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 his own 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."