The entire industry is shifting.
If you want the good news first, here it is—the box office is up 350% over 2021.
But if you want the real news, we're still down compared to pre-pandemic numbers. And we're not really releasing enough movies theatrically to make up for it. In fact, compared to 2019, we're releasing around 30% fewer movies per year, at this point in the calendar. There are lots of reasons for this, like limited production thanks to COVID and an industry switch to streaming, but these are sad numbers. And if we don't get them back up, it will be hard for theaters to keep their doors open.
We typically define a "wide release" as a film that plays on 2,000-plus screens. We usually see around 120 of those a year.
This year we're on pace for around 90. And that's subject to change depending on how studios push things or send them to streaming. While 2019 saw major blockbusters like Avengers: Endgame, we haven't been short of those this year, with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and The Batman. We also have seen breakout hits like Everything Everywhere All at Once. But we're seeing fewer of these movies.
Studios are taking fewer chances because the pandemic is not fully over. And they're moving popular titles away from theaters to streaming like the Predator prequel Prey, so it draws subscribers. The people left with empty screens are theaters, which have been struggling for a few years to even stay open amidst the pandemic.
To combat these abysmal numbers, theater owners are working forward asking for a 45-day theatrical window for many titles, including Netflix titles. If they can have something exclusive for a little over a month, they can drive people back into their seats and make money. They're particularly set on movies like Knives Out 2, the original of which had a favorable box office on its first run, and now that Netflix has the sequels, could be something they miss out on.
These are ongoing negotiations, but they have a real shot at evening out the losses sustained by theaters.
Let us know what you think in the comments.