Who’s going back to the movies? So far, not everyone

NEW YORK,  -- Movies are making a comeback in theaters. But, so far, it seems that not everyone is showing up as they used to.

Who’s going back to the movies? So far, not everyone

NEW YORK,  -- Movies are making a comeback in theaters. But, so far, it seems that not everyone is showing up as they used to.

11 November 2021 Thursday 13:29
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Who’s going back to the movies? So far, not everyone

NEW YORK,  -- Movies are making a comeback in theaters. But, so far, it seems that not everyone is showing up as they used to.

Some segments of moviegoers are more familiar with pre-pandemic levels than others, but older moviegoers and families have taken longer to return to the cinemas. This has reduced the opportunities for non-franchise movies to reach audiences. Before the pandemic, spectacles and superheroes had a larger share of the box office pie. They're now closer to the entire meal.

David A. Gross, the head of Franchise Entertainment's movie consulting, says that superhero movies are back to around 75% pre-pandemic levels. However, adult-driven genres have dropped 66%-75% and family films are less than half off. This can be explained naturally by COVID-19 concerns. Older ticket purchasers are more likely be cautious about the disease. For those below 12, vaccines are just beginning to be available.

However, if this trend is not temporary, it would not surprise those who have predicted that the theatrical movie, once the most popular pop-culture juggernaut of the planet has been split into two distinct camps: Blockbuster or boutique.

"It is too early to make long-term predictions. However, the trend was already established where blockbusters made up a larger part of the box-office. Rich Gelfond, chief executive at IMAX, says that the pandemic accelerated certain trends like other things. People want something more when they go out. People grew up watching different types of content on their couches.

Hollywood is closely monitoring how many moviegoers might have been lost during a period of unprecedented streaming services' penetration into homes, and the dissolution of exclusive theatre windows. Walt Disney Co. chief executive Bob Chapek said Wednesday on an earnings call that the studio is "very, very closely" watching how different demographics return in theaters.

Chapek said that "we're still uncertain in terms of how market reacts when family films return with a theatrical first windows," and his studio will release "Encanto," the animated film, later this month in theaters for 30 day. Chapek stated that the virus will not cause a change in consumer behavior.

The box-office top performers have been driven by younger audiences, often men. Films like "Venom: Let There Be Carnage," Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," and "Free Guy" have seen a revival in theatrical sales. Although none of these films has performed as well as they did before COVID-19, the drop-off is nothing when compared to the low turnout at Ridley Scott’s "The Last Duel," which made $10.5 million in just four weeks. This was a Disney-owned medieval drama with a star-led cast. Edgar Wright's "Last Night in Soho" is a chic thriller that has earned a modest $8.1million in just two weeks. The Oscar-tipped "Spencer", starring Kristen Stewart in the role of Princess Diana, opened last weekend with $2.1 million.

The older audience has helped to soften the relatively strong performance of MGM’s James Bond film, "No Time to Die", which was the 25th installment in a nearly 60-year-old franchise with $670 million worldwide and $144 million domestically. The studio estimated that 25% were visiting the film for the first time since the pandemic. It debuted on VOD this week just 31 days after it opened.

Paul Dergarabedian is a senior media analyst at Comscore. "If you look over the movies that have overperformed, generally speaking, over many weeks, it has been those that have tilted to the more youthful demographic," he says. "I believe that 'French Dispatch" and 'Dune’ show that, over time, and with the right movies more mature moviegoers might be saying, 'OK. I'm going for it.'

Morgan Stanley recently provided a positive assessment of the future of the industry. It predicted that occasional moviegoers, who account for about half of the box-office, won't return to the theaters and that the industry will eventually reach 60% of prepandemic levels.

"We are on our way, but we're still not there yet. While we see moviegoers who are passionate returning, those of us in our 50s and beyond are more reluctant. They aren't returning as quickly," Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. distribution chief, says. "I was hoping we'd reach 90% by Christmas but I think we'll be at 75%. Although I hope we will be 90% by next summer, I am not certain. It is impossible to predict. Is there another surge?

The one thing that's working is event movies on large-format screens. The appeal of large, loud theaters has increased despite the fact that movie-goers are more likely to stay home or wait until the movie is available on streaming platforms or video-on demand. IMAX saw $118 million in ticket sales, its highest October ever.

Gelfond stated, "We are really firing on all cylinders." Gelfond said that while there may be fewer movies in theaters, IMAX is seeing more blockbusters. That's a good thing.

The issue of turnout is an important one for any release that is not based on intellectual propriety. This season is usually devoted to Oscar contenders as well as the most critically acclaimed films of the year. Focus Features will be releasing Kenneth Branagh’s "Belfast", an Academy Award frontrunner, this weekend. Will Smith's "King Richard" will be released by Warner Bros. simultaneously in theaters and Ridley Scott’s "House of Gucci" with Lady Gaga, Adam Driver. In December, Steven Spielberg's West Side Story will be available.

This is the backdrop to which the Oscar race will be played. These films will be watched more closely than their chances of winning awards.

"I don’t believe it’s changed for the better. The audiences are still there, I believe. Frank Rodriguez, Searchlight's distribution head, says that the audiences have not vanished." "What they have done is they've changed their moviegoing habits a little."

Searchlight's French Dispatch has helped the specialty industry in recent weeks at theaters such as the Moxie Cinema in Springfield, Missouri. Even though the film's $8.4m gross in three weeks is a small amount compared to Anderson's $60 million domestic take in 2014.

Mike Stevens, executive Director of Moxie, stated that things are looking much better Monday morning than they were three days ago. But that's just been the way it has been. Every week seems to bring new hope or despair, or at least a new twist.

He has seen his older audience slowly return over the last few weeks and months.

They are not all stepping back at once. Some of them returned seven months ago. Stevens said that some are returning to see their first movie in nearly two years. It doesn't seem like it is all one thing. It can even be between couples. The husband may be away while the wife is at home, or vice versa.

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