For anyone who took the Christmas and New Year’s holidays off, welcome back. We hope your 2023 is off to a productive and fruitful beginning.
For those of you who may have worked through the holiday break, such as the hundreds of thousands of ushers, cashiers, servers and concession stand workers who staff the world’s movie theatres, thank you for keeping our industry running smoothly. If box office receipts are any indication, filmmaker James Cameron kept you extremely busy with everyone coming to see his latest, “Avatar: The Way of Water.” It’s almost as if 13 years hadn’t passed between his hit 2009 film “Avatar” and its sequel.
I suppose we should also thank senior management at AMC Theatres for not letting us forget what awaited us in the new year by providing us with a constant stream of headlines and tweets about their latest achievements, appointments and financial transactions. To be sure, this is simply a little inside-industry ribbing, as while our hearts went out to AMC’s public relations department for working over the holidays, we were glad to learn about any and all developments happening at the world’s largest motion picture exhibitor. Though given that movie theatres is kind of our beat, we’re always happy to hear from any exhibitor, large or small, no matter the time of year.
All of this being said, while for most the holidays are all about family, friends, decompressing and new beginnings, for many working in exhibition it appeared to be mostly about the A, B C’s. That would be “Avatar” and AMC, box office and Cineworld.
“Avatar: The Way of Water” and the box office are somewhat tied together, in that the sequel is helping the box office recover from its pandemic lows. Gower Street Analytics took it’s first back-of-the-envelope pass at 2022 figures and it looks as if global box office for the year will come in at USD $25.9 billion. That’s 27% higher than 2021 but 35% below the pre-pandemic average. The good news is that the “Avatar” sequel continues to generate significant ticket sales into January and looks likely to do so for the rest of the month as it passes the USD $1.5 billion mark.
Actually the first full weekend of January gave us a great surprise thanks to “Megan”… oh, I mean “M3gan.” It’s amazing how a killer trailer and a good movie can attract audiences to movie theatres. The USD $12 million horror has already earned USD $45 million globally and helped North American box office to a surpass $100 million this weekend. If we only had a Liam Neeson action thriller for the last week of January we’d really be set.
Imagine what “Avatar” and “M3gan” would be making if some cinema operators weren’t forced to cap their attendance due to lack of staffing. The screening of “Avatar: The Way of Water” I attended in the San Francisco bay areas was listed as sold out, though when the lights dimmed only 62 of the 120 seats were filled. Upon bringing this to management’s attention I was told they weren’t filling auditoriums due to a staffing shortage. I’ve heard this from at least four large North American exhibitors.
Meanwhile, over the past two weeks it seemed as if AMC Theatres wanted to keep us up-to-date on all but their staffing situation. Starting 19 December the company published four press releases during a time when most aren’t paying much attention to news items. As I explain in our most recent piece about AMC, there was good reason for the company to be sending out press releases over the holiday, if only to keep Wall Street short sellers on their toes. The financial machinations AMC is going through now are too complicated to do them just in the Marquee, but suffice to say, 2023 may prove to be a make or break year for the exhibitor.
One bit of news AMC told us not through a press release but rather an SEC filing was that they had ceased negotiating to take over certain assets of the currently bankrupt Cineworld. This was the first official confirmation that AMC had been talking to Cineworld’s lenders. In turn, it forced Cineworld, the world’s second largest exhibition chain, to tell the bankruptcy court that they had no intention of selling off the company’s assets piecemeal.
The year begins in earnest this week with the International Cinema Technology Association’s Los Angeles seminar series. This is the first year that the Cinema Foundation is partnering with the ICTA on the event. We’ll be present so be sure to say hello if you see us wandering around. In the meantime, be sure to check out how James Cameron used Dolby technology on the “Avatar” sequel over at their website.
The Dolby Advantage
When Warner Bros. showed the trailer for the film adaptation of Lin Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical “In the Heights” at Cinemacon in 2019, it caused quite a stir among the exhibitors in attendance. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic delated the release of “In the Heights” by a year, but it is finally coming to theatres in June. Chu explains the benefits of using Atmos.
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