Despite some theaters having opened in select markets, the box office as a whole has yet to bounce back in a serious way. As such, some industry insiders are suggesting annual returns will end up even lower than first thought for both 2020 and 2021. B. Riley's Eric Wold wrote in a client note on Monday that he believes attendance numbers won't return to normal until 2022 at the earliest, and as a result, has cut stock targets on the parent companies behind the country's largest exhibitors.
"Even though we had already been projecting a 70 percent year-over-year decline in domestic box office revenues in 2020, we are lowering that projected decline even further to 80 percent," he wrote in his note (via THR.)
"However, we are still assuming domestic movie-goer attendance trends can approach 2019 levels in 2022 and continue to project less than a 10 percent box office decline versus 2019 levels for that year," he added.
Exhibitors around the world have run into a Catch-22, where studios don't feel comfortable releasing tentpole features until they feel consumer confidence has returned to pre-COVID numbers. This has forced chains to show years-old second-run movies and small independent features that don't demand large box hauls.
The parent company behind Regal Cinemas announced earlier this month the chain — the second largest in the United States — would temporarily shutter its doors for the remainder of the year in hopes studios felt more comfortable to release blockbusters in 2021.
"As you know, the cost of running the cinemas without movies is very high, but we said internally that we would hold for the coming six weeks (until Bond) and keep the business open for our customers and for our employees," Cinemaworld CEO Mooky Greidinger said in an interview earlier this month. "But when the Bond decision arrived, a decision that followed numerous delays of other movies, we had to change the direction, close the cinemas and wait for a situation where the studios will be able to present a solid release schedule. The main thing blocking the studios is that they don’t see movement in New York — and in some other places — but New York is kind of the symbol. Even California is already 50% open."0comments
Greidinger cites the delay of No Time to Die and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's "inflexibility" in allowing theaters to reopen as the two major factors why he and his time chose to shut down temporarily.
Cover photo by E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune