Celluloid Junkie’s 2019 Cinema Predictions

By Celluloid Junkie Staff | January 28, 2019 3:06 am PST

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future,” Yogi Berra famously quipped. This did not stop the editorial team at Celluloid Junkie from bravely sticking their necks out a year ago to read the tea leaves on what 2018 would have in store. Did we get it right? As always, it was a mixed bag of bullseyes, nope, might still happen and the occasional ‘Dewey Deafeats Truman‘. Amongst the better predictions was the mixed BO fortunes of China, sequels doing well, Wanda sold a stake in AMC to an institutional investors. The things that might still happen are Verizon and/or Comcast bidding for Paramount. In the ‘Dewey Corner’ Cinepolis did not make a spoiler bid for Regal, Premium VoD didn’t arrive, IMAX was not bought out by an Investor and Alibaba did not buy MoviePass. However, unlike most other media outlets, at least we did not go wrong by forever predicting the imminent demise of the cinema subscription service in 2018.

So rather than predicting who will or won’t buy who in 2019, we have decided to look at major trends that will shape the cinema industry, both in the US and internationally in 2019. A big thanks to Jim Amos (JA), who makes a guest return to Celluloid Junkie, to join Sperling (JSR) and Patrick (PvS) as we gaze into the crystal ball. We see a mountain with stars swirling around it and someone definitely wants to buy it. The buyers name begins with an ‘A. Could it be Apple, Amazon, Alibaba or Alphabet? Read on…

Brexit Won’t Significantly Impact Uk Film and Cinema Sectors

Even as feral children scour the streets of London for scraps of food and Fortnite tier tokens following a no-deal Brexit, the UK audio-visual sector will carry on regardless. Studios around London will continue to be booked out as the falling value of the pound makes it more economic than ever to shoot films in the UK. Queues will be longer at airport for Hollywood executives passing through to European destination (the Eurotunnel will be filled in and sealed, as the Royal Navy patrols the Channel against illegal imports of brie cheese and Wim Wender films). London will still be the headquarter for Cineworld, Odeon and Vue, with a knighthood for Mooky and Tim for not relocating to Dublin and an OBE for Carol (equal honours? what equal honours?). Brits will stand in line for rationed sweet popcorn at their local cinema to see the new Bond film, where 007 takes on rogue Remoaners trying to snare Britain back into the clutches of the Spectre, sorry, Brussels. -PvS

eSports in MX4D. (image: MediaMation)
eSports in MX4D. (image: MediaMation)

Cinema Operators Start Playing Around With Esports

With hit video games raking in as much as $500 million in a weekend and esports franchise teams in popular leagues selling for tens of millions of dollars, the entertainment industry has begun to take notice. Exhibitors such as Cineplex Entertainment, Harkins Theatres and National Amusements have been successful in opening their theatres up to esports tournaments, whether they are happening on-site or beamed in from halfway around the world to sold out audiences. As esports teams and championship tournaments for popular games start driving more headlines, the potential earnings from spectators will increase exponentially. This will be the year that cinema operators begin to figure out how to capitalize on esports. –JSR

Cinema Preshow Advertising Sales Decline in North America

As more cinema operators throughout the United States and Canada reseat their theatres with recliners and transition to point of sale systems that can handle reserved seating, audiences will begin to straggle into auditoriums later. Trained by years of trailer packs and freed from the need to show up early to get a good seat, a growing number of moviegoers are showing up in the middle of the first trailer, or even as the trailers are ending . This makes the twenty minutes before the published showtime, when most North American exhibitors show preshow advertising, less valuable than it once was. Exhibitors nor preshow advertising companies, such as National Cinemedia and Screenvision, are all that eager for this reality to make itself widely known. However, 2019 may be the year that advertisers catch-on and begin to tie campaign purchases to exactly how many moviegoers saw their ads, rather than ticket sales alone. –JSR

Cinépolis Shifts Focuses From the U.S. To the Middle East

Beginning with a single complex in Del Mar, California in 2011, the Mexican exhibitor Cinépolis has expanded in the U.S. to 20 different multiplexes across seven states. Operating of Dallas, Cinépolis USA has announced plans for several new theatres to open in the next few years in both their standard Cinépolis offering as well as the upscale Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas concept. Even so, with political leadership making it plainly obvious they aren’t happy doing business with certain countries, including Mexico, Cinépolis may look to concentrate on growing their business in other parts of the world in 2019. They have already made public plans to expand into the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and have also been poking around the United Arab Emirates. Surely, Cinépolis could handle expansion initiatives in both the U.S. and Middle East, but don’t be surprised if North America becomes less of a priority. –JSR

The Simpsons predicted it in 1997. (photo: Fox Television)
The Simpsons predicted it in 1997. (photo: Fox Television)

Disney Will Dismantle Fox Searchlight and Move Upcoming Smaller Fox Releases and Fox Searchlight’s Art Fare to Its Streaming Channel

Disney’s entire business model is constructed around making 6-10 movies a year, make them behemoths at the box office and charge exorbitantly high film rental terms. A lovely model if you can get it. One of the reasons they can get away with regularly extracting 60-65% film rental from US exhibitors is because they don’t have the “problem children” that most studios have. Exhibitors have very little leverage to use with Disney as they can’t hint that they won’t play one of the ugly ducklings if they don’t lower their “Avengers” terms to a reasonable level. Therefore, it stands to reason that Disney won’t be too excited to bring the current Fox titles in production directly into the Disney fold. So don’t figure on “Super Troopers 3” showing up on a Disney release schedule anytime soon. The same with the Fox Searchlight films. What can happen, and this gets back to the “Roma” point, is that studio can release its Fox Searchlight type award films on its streaming platform, ala Netflix, after a brief theatrical run. In addition, Disney, with rare exception, won’t be adding current Fox marketing or distribution personnel into their fold so they couldn’t even handle a 50-100% increase in titles from a bandwidth aspect if they wanted to. –JA

The End of VPF Will See More Content on the Big Screen

2019 is the year that more than half of all VPF agreements will have expired for cinemas in North America and Western Europe. There will be major effort to extend the life of existing equipment instead of upgrading, freeing up investment for recliners, immersive seats and ScreenX, all of which will continue to perform strongly. There will be more flexibility in how and what content is booked, even as “Avengers 4” and blockbusters continue to rule the roost. There will be more event cinema, one-off film shows, themed seasons, previews, on-demand performances and other ways of attracting audiences to cinemas. Day-and-date will still not happen, but expect windows to become more flexible as Netflix, Amazon and others continue to spend freely on top talent. –PvS

The Era of the Movie Star Will Continue to Dwindle in the U.s. But Will Remain Strong Overseas

Quickly, name a truly bankable movie star in 2019. Yes perhaps Leonardo DiCaprio is a good answer but Leo makes a film every couple of years. Tom Cruise is reliable, but only in “Mission: Impossible” films and how long can he keep doing those at his age. Meryl Streep and Emma Stone dance between commercial fare and more specialized. But look at overseas box office and you’ll see that the rest of the world still loves its movie stars. Dwayne Johnson is a perfect example. Johnson made two films released in calendar year 2018, “Rampage” and “Skyscraper”. Each of those two films made 77% of its worldwide global box office take from international territories. So while those two films may have been perceived as middling hits in North America, Johnson remains a huge draw overseas for all of his films, as do so many other previously bankable Hollywood stars. Look for that trend to continue in 2019. –JA

The biggest event cinema release in UA in 2018. (image: Fathom Events)
The biggest event cinema release in US in 2018. (image: Fathom Events)

Event Cinema Will Continue to Expand and Will Appeal to a Younger Audience

Yes, Fathom’s presentations from The Met in New York will continue to drive Event Cinema box office in 2019 but look for a tilt toward younger fare as well. BTS’ Burn The Stage showed that younger audiences will know about Event Cinema releases even quicker than their older counterparts, thanks to social media. 2018 filmed concert successes from bands such as Muse and Coldplay echo that point. Fathom’s anime series has gained a significant following as well. Look for Event Cinema releases geared to the 18-32 audience to expand in 2019. –JA

European Exhibitors Will Continue to Scoop Up North American Chains

Given the financial hiccup its Chinese owner (Dalian Wanda) is presently contending with, not to mention its own debt load after two separate billion dollar deals, AMC is unlikely to be on the lookout for another cinema chain to acquire. After swallowing Regal last year, the European based Cineworld is unlikely to make any major purchases either. Still, everyone in the know seems to believe that consolidation in the exhibition industry is inevitable. If true, the most likely buyers will come from outside the U.S. Look for major European circuits such as Kinepolis to start expanding into North America. Having already picked up Landmark of Canada, don’t be surprised if the company heads south and buys a chain in the U.S. –JSR

India Will Overtake China in Cinema (But Not BO) Focus

Growth and consolidation will fuel the Indian cinema sector, leading to a renewed overseas interest, though steep prices will mean no outside acquisitions. Indian operators will also continue to push into new markets, particularly in the the Gulf, Saudi Arabia, but also Africa and Southeast Asia. After the debacle of law changes to allow outside food into cinemas in 2018, the multiplex operator will grease the political wheels better to allow for faster expansion, particularly in the South and also smaller cities. While the country will continue to lag China in absolute numbers, growth is likely to overtake that of China. –PvS

Samsung Onyx screen in Pacific Theater. (photo: Patrick von Sychowski / Celluloid Junkie)
Samsung Onyx screen in Pacific Theater. (photo: Patrick von Sychowski / Celluloid Junkie)

LED Cinema Screens Will Be Slow to Take Off

Although Sony and at least one other company (LG? some unheard of Chinese?) will also roll out their LED cinema screens in 2019, the uptake will continue to be slow. With the premium cinemas in emerging markets (mainly China) already built but not paid off, there won’t be a rush to either put LED screens in new builds or replace existing projector installations. Expect Samsung to push innovative financing solution, particularly post-VPF (see below), but even so installs of LED cinema are unlikely to reach four figures until 2020. And James Cameron will come out and say that “Avatar” II, III and IV are best seen in HFR 3D at an LED cinema, but auto-stereoscopic efforts could steal a march. –PvS

More Exhibitors Offer Dine-in Cinema to Get Into VIP Pricing

First it was recliners that allowed cinema operators to increase ticket prices and patronage, at times transforming money losing locations into profitable multiplexes. Now exhibitors are hungry for the next revenue boost, and it looks like they might try to serve up dine-in offerings in hopes of charging VIP prices. Alamo Drafthouse may have pioneered the format, but they now have company with the likes of Cinépolis, Flix Brewhosue, Studio Movie Grill and even AMC outfitting cinemas that can cater to moviegoers who may be looking to dine on fare beyond popcorn and candy. More chains will begin to experiment with their own expanded concession and dine-in options in 2019 with the aim of increasing ticket prices at such locations. Even if ticket prices can only be raised modestly, exhibitors will be able to sell higher priced food and beverage products without having to share any of the revenue with studios. –JSR

More Movie Circuits Will Go the Subscription Route, Further Eroding the Market Share and Viability of Moviepass and Sinemia

As more circuits institute their own subscription-based ticketing services, current subscription programs such as MoviePass and Sinemia will watch their share of the U.S. moviegoing audience wither. MoviePass has already dug itself a hole from which it cannot escape thanks to an inconsistent business model and generally poor customer service. Sinemia, on the other hand, looked to be primed to take over the space thanks to a wider range of moviegoing options but the company has been beset lately with its own share of customer service disasters and a curious marketing strategy. It’s odd for a company whose success is beholden to people showing up in movie theaters to post on social media about what’s new on Netflix or a release date being set for the new season of Game of Thrones. The circuits will take the ball from here, offering concessions and rewards points offers and will be far better suited to partner with the major studios than third party entities. –JA

"Avengera 4: End Game" (image: Disney / Marvel)
“Avengera 4: End Game” (image: Disney / Marvel)

North American Boxoffice Will Hit $12 Billion in 2019

Interestingly enough, the only quarter of the year which we foresee being lower in 2019 than in 2018 is the first quarter. In 2019 we have no “Jumanji” or “The Greatest Showman” to carry over into the year. It wasn’t until January 26th of 2018 before a non-Christmas release claimed the #1 spot. This year that happened on January 11th with “The Upside”. Otherwise, Disney looks to have a monster year, even for them, and studios such as Universal, Warners and Sony have slates that are as good as or better than in 2018. –JA

Single Digit Growth Is the New Normal for China BO

With China’s economy slowing down, cinema will not budge the trend as the days of double digital box office growth become a memory. China’s BO will grow from CNY 61 billion (USD $9 billion) to CNY 65 billion (USD $9.62 billion) at a rate of 6.5%. However, cinemas screens will continue to grow by double digits as more Tier 3 and 4 city cinemas come on line. Hollywood films will do well while more discerning tastes means more big local flops, though on the flipside, more artistic local films will also find box office success. It could also be the year when we finally see Chinese sci-fi films take off, with the much anticipated Liu Cixin adaptations finally hitting the big screen. –PvS

VR Dies a Death in Cinema

It won’t be missed, but major investments and focus on virtual reality by cinemas will be quietly phased out. IMAX already effectively pulled the plug in 2018, but the economics for cinemas to give up valuable lobby space to costly VR arcades will stop making sense this year as there is focus on retail and amenities instead. Facebook will do a face-saving exit from Oculus Rift, leaving Chinese manufacturers and enthusiasts to keep the format alive, mainly for POV porn, with its low production costs and suitability for solo enjoyment. –PvS

Whether or Not Roma Wins Best Picture at Oscars Will Be the Biggest Story of Oscar Night for the Movie Industry

So here is your Oscar night drama. Awards season is in full force without a clear-cut favorite in the Best Picture category, leaving the door ajar for Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma. Why is this such a tantalizing story? Because a certain percentage of Academy members, whether they want to admit it publicly or not, are what are known as Never-Netflix’ers, meaning they see the streaming service as enough of a threat to the motion picture industry that they simply will never vote to reward a piece of Netflix content. If, however, they are outnumbered by members who simply want to reward a film they see as the best film of 2018 then the streaming service will have had their first ever big win on Oscar night, which may lure more top name talent, both behind and in front of the screen, to make their films at Netflix. The plot thickens. –JA

Watching the Oscars? (image: Netflix)
Watching the Oscars? (image: Netflix)
Celluloid Junkie Staff