LOS ANGELES – Cinemas are finally recovering from the pandemic, with strong attendance over the weekend for James Bond’s latest show, “No Time to Die,” giving Hollywood its third box office hit in the within a month. For multiplex chains battered by coronaviruses, this is the reason for a party martini.
But the box office is still extremely fragile, analysts say, and one of the doomsday scenarios for the pandemic’s lasting impact on theatrical releases has come true: the only films that garner considerable attention in theaters. are the big budget franchise movies. Small drama and comedy audiences seem – at least for the time being – to be happy with home viewing, either by purchasing films via video on demand or watching them on streaming services.
âSuperhero, action and horror films work well in theaters, especially when offered exclusively and not simultaneously available to stream,â said David A. Gross, who heads Franchise Entertainment. Research, a film consulting company. âBut parts of the business remain down. Dramas, character-driven films, and arthouse films were under pressure before the pandemic, and the bar is going to be even higher now. “
âNo Time to Die,â premiered as the 25th installment of the Bond franchise and starring Daniel Craig in his fifth and final round as 007, grossed around $ 56 million at 4,407 theaters in the United States and Canada, according to Comscore. In partial overseas release, “No Time to Die” raised an additional $ 257 million, according to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and its overseas distribution partner, Universal Pictures International. (Amazon bought MGM for $ 8.5 billion this year.)
Due to the pandemic, more and more moviegoers have pushed back ticket purchase decisions until the last minute, analysts say, making it difficult for studios to predict how a movie will perform. At the start of the weekend, national estimates for “No Time to Die” ranged from $ 36 million to over $ 70 million, according to the research company that was making the prognosis. The film’s franchise predecessor, âSpecter,â grossed $ 70.4 million in North America during its first three days in 2015.
âNo Time to Die,â which received great reviews and an A-minus rating from ticket buyers in CinemaScore’s exit polls, was the first major film to be affected by the pandemic. It was originally scheduled to hit theaters in April 2020. MGM and the London producers who control the franchise, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, have pushed the release back to November 2020 and then again to this month.
Theaters keep around 50 percent of total ticket sales, meaning the costly âNo Time to Dieâ is unlikely to generate any profit for MGM. The film cost around $ 250 million to make and an additional $ 150 million to market worldwide. But the film sold enough tickets in its first three days in theaters to be considered a success, in part because of interest from older ticket buyers, who avoided theaters due to problems with coronavirus.
According to Erik Lomis, president of distribution at United Artists Releasing, a subsidiary of MGM, about 36% of weekend viewers in North America were over 45 and about 57% were over 35. Mr Lomis said exit polls showed 25 percent of ticket buyers had not been to the theater for 18 months.
âThis is a really big deal and shows the power of Bond,â Mr. Lomis said. âThis movie is going to remind a lot of people how much fun it is to go to the movies, and it will hopefully help the whole industry. We need a more mature audience to come back.
Greg Durkin, the founder of Guts and Data, a film research company, said “No Time to Die” had a “fantastic” opening weekend, “especially considering the audience mix and the way that older moviegoers have been more hesitant to return to the movies. âMr. Durkin estimated that without the pandemic,â No Time to Die âwould have reached about $ 62 million in domestic ticket sales.
“No Time to Die” arrived after the superhero sequel “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” (Sony) grossed $ 90 million in North American theaters between October 1 and October 3 – on the weekends. highest opening end of the pandemic era. The worldwide total for “Let There Be Carnage” now stands at $ 186 million. Another superhero film, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings” (Disney-Marvel) sold around $ 75 million in tickets in its first three days in theaters in early September, setting a record for Labor Day weekend (pandemic or other). He has since raised $ 400 million worldwide.
But films that aren’t fantasies or that are part of existing franchises have struggled, adding to concerns that post-pandemic-era cinemas will offer much less variety. The worry is that old-fashioned studios will redirect most foreign dramas, comedies, documentaries and films to streaming services, as they did during the pandemic, leaving theaters to become even more of a movie business like theme park. .
Recent theatrical disappointments have included âDear Evan Hansen,â a big-screen adaptation of the Broadway musical; âTammy Faye’s Eyes,â about over-emotional televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker; “Respect”, a bio-music by Aretha Franklin with Jennifer Hudson; and the arthouse drama âBlue Bayouâ. Clint Eastwood’s latest film, âCry Macho,â and the popular period drama âThe Many Saints of Newarkâ both arrived in muted ticket sales, in part because Warner Bros. released them simultaneously in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service.
So far this year, fine art film distributor Magnolia Pictures has released 17 films that have raised around $ 1 million at the combined North American box office, according to the IMDb Pro database. In 2019, Magnolia released 16 films that grossed around $ 6 million.
The weeks and months ahead will either compound or ease concerns, as studios begin releasing a more steady stream of franchise-free films, including sophisticated offerings with Oscar aspirations. âThe Last Duel,â a historical drama film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jodie Comer and Adam Driver, will be released in theaters exclusively on Friday. “The French Dispatch,” directed by Wes Anderson and starring a star-studded cast, is slated for an exclusive theatrical release on October 22.
âWe need studios to release a wider range of films,â said Patrick Corcoran, spokesperson for the National Association of Theater Owners, which represents 35,000 movie screens in the United States. âRight now, theaters are like grocery stores where you can only buy steak,â he continued, referring to the effects shows. âPeople also want grain. They also want fresh fruits and vegetables.