One crucial thing will be missing from theaters this fall: movies.
After ‘Bullet Train’, Sony’s action movie starring Brad Pitt, hits theaters next week, and the August, September and October film series is turning bleak. It’s hard to find blockbusters in the mix. In fact, there aren’t many movies that could open more than $50 million at the box office until Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” which doesn’t debut until November 11.
The lack of movies comes in a year that is already well behind Hollywood’s pre-pandemic output. At this point in 2019, there were 63 nationwide releases in North America, according to Comscore (SCOR). This year the number is 39 – a drop of 38% from three years ago.
Despite the delay, 2022 has largely held up. Ticket sales in 2019 are about 30% behind pre-pandemic levels, which is pretty good considering the lack of movies hitting theaters.
So where are all the movies? Much is still being produced and released, but many are going straight to streaming or being delayed as the industry is experiencing many of the same problems as the rest of the economy.
In short, Hollywood has supply chain problems.
“A number of lingering issues related to supply chain backup and production pipeline have impacted several films,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, told CNN Business. “It’s important to remember that in most cases, studios map out their release strategies for six months to a year or more.”
While summer movies are a “smashing success” in theaters, the industry is “still catching up with audience sentiment and expectations for new content on the big screen,” Robbins added.
Think back to two years ago, when studios postponed movies almost every day as the coronavirus pandemic rocked Hollywood. The resonance of those decisions can still be felt today.
There’s also another reason why theaters miss the normal amount of movies: streaming.
As streaming becomes more of a focus for media companies, studios now supply theaters as well as streamers. Some movies that seem perfect for theaters, like 20th Century Studios’ “Prey,” the next installment in the “Predator” franchise, are going exclusively to streaming rather than the big screen. In fact, many of the movies from 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures now just go to Hulu.
“It’s no secret that studios want to diversify their distribution strategies, while streamers want to expand their content offerings and compete with subscribers,” Robbins said.
A direct-to-streaming strategy makes sense for many movies. And “a big-budget movie sent straight to streaming may have a low box-office ceiling to begin with,” Robbins added. Otherwise, it would “make little sense to cut off that lucrative income stream.”
While there may not be many big hit movies in theaters in the coming weeks, there will still be movies to watch.
There are smaller films like A24’s horror film, “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” which premieres on August 5, the sinuous “Don’t Worry Darling” starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles on September 23, the romantic comedy” Brittle.” on September 30, “Halloween Ends,” the next and possibly final film in the Halloween franchise, on October 14, and “Black Adam,” a superhero film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, on October 21.
Each of those films can surprise and find an audience.
In fact, blockbusters from yesteryear will hit theaters with IMAX reissues of “ET: The Extra Terrestrial” in August and “Jaws” in September.
Due to the lack of movies hitting theaters, this summer’s hits like “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru” may continue to boost ticket sales.
So there are a few silver liners for theaters in the coming months. However, that doesn’t change the fact that “Wakanda Forever,” Hollywood’s next big blockbuster hope, feels gone forever.