The shortage of Hollywood blockbuster titles in the next two months has raised fears about the recovery of the global cinema sector. After a strong cinema summer, with hits such as “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Minions: the Rise of Gru”, there are no titles predicted to open to over USD $40 million at the domestic (North American) box office. While studios have traditionally shied away from releasing big tentpoles in late summer and early autumn, the lack of major tentpoles is noticeable.
Despite the recent recovery, tickets sales are still down 40% from levels before the pandemic. The proportion of films released on over 2,000 screens is down 30% compared to both 2018 and 2019. Major titles originally slated for these months, such as “Black Adam,” the seventh “Mission: Impossible” and the new “Transformers,” have been pushed back months or even to 2023.
The lack of titles is blamed on supply chain issues, with Hollywood studios halting productions during the pandemic. Once shooting resumed, visual effects houses were unable to ramp up to meet the surging demand:
VFX houses weren’t equipped to handle it all. Many had transitioned to remote work, which made them less efficient. They lost talented staffers to the great resignation and poaching from companies like Meta Platforms Inc. (formerly Facebook). Some of the movies mentioned above aren’t done because the visual effects aren’t ready.Lucas Shaw, Bloomberg
Apart from the blockbusters, the overall cinema market has been “soft” this year, with the top ten titles accounting for 65% of the entire box office in the US. “Top Gun: Maverick” alone accounts for around 14%. Prior to the pandemic the top ten would make up roughly 40% of the total box office. There is hope that more streamers (Netflix, Amazon and Apple) will start to release films in cinemas with a 30-45 day window. The Netflix spy thriller “The Gray Man” recently released with a short window and earned less than “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank”.