What a Difference a Year Makes

Updated 27 weeks ago by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
What a Difference a Year Makes

At this time last year, Marquee Cinemas and other theaters were mostly closed . There was a resurgence of drive in running first run movies and some picked up IFC "horror" content (the distributor is mostly known for foreign art films). You could not eat inside a restaurant. It was pick up or delivery.

Although WV Gov. Jim Justice allowed cinemas to open with masks and social distancing in June, the studios did not release new films. The summer consisted of former blockbusters, such as Gremlins, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and other franchises. 

Late summer saw the opening of "Tenant," along with mini-distributors shoving their release schedule into a mainstream where the "Top 10" at the boxoffice often did not cross $2 million dollars due to closings and social distancing. Regal Cinemas reopened, then, when distributors pushed hits backward, they shuttered all their cinemas.

With no new product and wide distancing, most cinemas could not make rent. A few became inventive: One turned their back wall into a drive in. Others sold theatre popcorn. And many started offering "private screenings" to groups of 20 ranging from $99 to $199. 

As Memorial Day Weekend awaits, the industry is optimistic. A Boxoffice Magazine forecaster remained "cautious" due to the wide variety of "circumstances" that cinemas faced. However, many which had dropped down to  three or four day weeks, have ,at least for now, initiated seven day a week schedules.

Boxoffice wrote:

"The symbolism of this inflection point will likely outweigh any box office numbers that come to pass in the days ahead, but there is a growing optimism that the numbers themselves will soar to new heights for the pandemic and build on the momentum generated throughout the past few months. Exhibition’s rebound has substantially improved thanks to the reopening of major regional markets, more than 70 percent of theaters resuming operations, successful vaccine distributions reaching half the United States’ adult population, and an increasing of volume of big screen content."

Pre and early post pandemic attendance has averaged  only 15%-20% of pre virus revenue. Boxoffice is predicting that 2021 Memorial Day will be in the realms of 70% of pre-pandemic attendance. Surveys have show that patrons have gained safety confidence and in most locations mask stipulations (such as wear in the lobby but not auditorium). 

Writer/Director John Krasinski’s Quiet Place 2,  follow-up to the 2018 breakout hit,  is setting itself up as the kind of thrilling escapist fare designed for the shared audience experience moviegoers have longingly missed for the past year. The most recent final trailer has generated more than 10.5 million YouTube views in three weeks’ time, while steady drips of studio marketing have helped execute an effective social media campaign that has drummed up buzzy interest in the film once again.

Promotion ahead of the Oscars and during the MTV Movie & TV Awards were also sights for sore eyes among those waiting for Hollywood to begin advertising big releases to important demographics again. There’s a tangible feeling that this will be one of the zeitgeist-tappers looked back upon in the history books as one of the movies that resurrected cinemas in a COVID-19 world.

The anticipated sequel will run in theaters exclusively before becoming available to Paramount+ streaming subscribers 45 days after release, Boxoffice said. 

According to projections, Quiet Place 2 a $40 to $55 million haul (thru Monday) is the prediction based on the growing attendance of "Godzilla v. Kong" ($48 million), along with the "Mortal Kombat / Demon Slayer duo attracting $44 million nationwide. 

Cruella, like all movies releasing today versus three months ago, enters a far more friendly environment with increased theatrical market share and consumer confidence. Pre-sales are fair at this stage, but the crime-comedy film is targeting a slightly different audience that the typical Disney revival — namely, adults. That’s in contrast to more family-driven, fantastical fare like The Lion KingBeauty and the BeastCinderella, and Aladdin — which, appropriately, opened on Memorial Day weekend exactly two years ago.

Projections have Cruella with a 4 day turn out near $17-$27 million. Last week Spiral will likely undergo a steep  (near 60% drop off, including the loss of all premium format screens). 

“Moviegoing has taken a hard hit during the pandemic, but theater chains have done an excellent job implementing new safety features so that moviegoers can return to the cinema with confidence,” said Fandango Chief Commercial Officer Kevin Shepela told Boxoffice. “Our study shows that exhibitors’ hard work has paid off, with moviegoers thrilled to be back in theaters and excited for summer movie season.”

Fandango also took the opportunity to ask participants in their study about the movies they were most excited to see over the summer. 96 percent of those ticket buyers said they plan to see multiple movies over the coming summer months, with 64 percent stating they planned to see 5 titles or more in theaters.

The five most awaited films are:

1. Black Widow

2. Quiet Place Part 2

3. F9

4. The Suicide Squad

5. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings