There’s Something Wrong with This Picture
Everyday life in much of the country is starting to resemble the normal existence we once knew. So, did you rush out to your local cinema to see “Black Widow,” the latest superhero film from Marvel Studios, when it debuted in early July? Probably not.
For all the hype heralding the return of normal life again in a post-pandemic world, there was little about the debut performance of Black Widow that resembled a pre-pandemic premiere of a blockbuster film. Its opening weekend North American box office gross was $80 million, a post-pandemic high for a theatrical release but far short of other well-received blockbusters in the pre-COVID world. Moreover, Disney simultaneously streamed the movie on its Disney+ platform, where it grossed another $60 million that bypassed theatres entirely1. If that sounds unusual, get used to it.
For years, studios have made it a mission to shorten the exclusivity window with theatres, and the prospect of achieving that goal has been hastened by the pandemic. “Space Jam 2,” which also streamed on HBO Max, grossed $32 million domestically in its opening weekend on nearly 4,000 screens — hardly a runaway hit despite industry efforts to spin its better-than–expected debut as a smash. Its opening domestic box office gross was slightly better than the original Space Jam’s $28 million debut way back in 19962.
There might be no industry sector that has more secular negative trends working against it than movie theatres, but that unpleasant reality hasn’t stopped investors from throwing billions of new capital at the industry since the pandemic began — and we don’t just mean AMC Entertainment3.