Set more than ten years after the events of the first film, Avatar: The Way of Water tells the story of the Sully family.
The 2022 box office is a Hollywood underdog story come to life.
Despite nearly 40% less movie content available in theaters compared to 2019, ticket sales are down about 30% so far, according to data from Comscore.
Audiences have returned to cinemas in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, spending more than ever on tickets and popcorn. However, the lack of stable theatrical releases will weigh heavily on the industry during the final, crucial months of the year.
As it stands, there are currently only four potential blockbuster releases hitting theaters before the end of December:
- Warner Bros.’ “Black Adam” – October 21
- Disney and Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” – November 11
- Disney Animation’s “Alien World” – November 23
- Disney’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” – December 16
In 2019, there were nearly two dozen blockbuster-style films on the calendar for the last four months of the year, including “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”
“We’re seeing now that as we get into the fall, we kind of take a break,” said Shawn Robbins, chief media analyst at BoxOffice.com, “And a lot of that really falls on the ongoing pandemic issues.”
Those issues include production stops that delayed film shoots and pressure on visual effects houses to complete projects within shorter deadlines.
There is no doubt that moviegoers are interested in returning to the cinema. Movies like “Top Gun: Maverick”, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”, “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Thor: Love and Thunder” have brought audiences back. However, with fewer movies of all budgets on the slate, there are fewer opportunities for studios and movie theater operators to lure customers to the big screen.
“For me now the question is, how soon can we have more of those movies again, like ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ and ‘Elvis’ and ‘The Black Phone?'” Robbins said, pointing out that there is potential. for some smaller film releases such as “Lyle, Lyle Crocodile”, “Amsterdam” and “Don’t Worry Darling” to break through and generate stronger-than-expected ticket sales. Universal’s “Halloween Kills” will be released in theaters and on Peacock on October 14.
Dwayne Johnson dressed as Black Adam speaks onstage during the Warner Bros. theatrical session with “Black Adam” and “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” panel during 2022 Comic Con International: San Diego at San Diego Convention Center on July 23, 2022 in San Diego, California.
Kevin Winter | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
“The hope is that this will happen later in the fall and during the holiday season,” he said. “But it will really be 2023 at this point before there may be some month-to-month consistency again.”
This is why many studios have turned to library content, films that were previously released in theaters, to lure people back to the cinema. Disney has already re-released the Star Wars prequel “Rogue One” in theaters and plans to relaunch the original “Avatar” in late September. Sony is also in the process of releasing a souped-up version of “Spider-Man: No Way Home”.
Reissues are nothing new in the industry, especially when it comes to major anniversary milestones for popular and iconic features, but 90% of those screenings are scheduled through Fathom Events, not the studios themselves, according to Comscore data. Fathom is a joint venture between AMC, Regal and Cinemark that is bringing legacy titles back to movie theaters for limited commissions.
Upcoming anniversary screenings of Fathom include the 40th anniversary of “Star Trek: Wrath of Khan”, the 10th anniversary of “Pitch Perfect”, the 40th anniversary of “Poltergeist” and the 60th anniversary of “To Kill a Mockingbird”.
The company also releases a series of Halloween titles in October, including 1932’s “The Mummy,” 1935’s “The Bride of Frankenstein,” 1954’s “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” and 1943’s “Phantom of the Opera.” Additionally, it celebrates the 25th anniversary of “Scream 2” and 30th anniversary of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.”
Fathom is also partnering with Universal to release three Judd Apatow-produced films ahead of “Bros,” a romantic comedy set to hit theaters September 30.
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, “Trainwreck” and “Knocked Up” will be re-released September 19, with pre-recorded intros from director Nicholas Stoller and co-stars Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane.
Action movies dominated the box office in 2022, so counterprogramming like these romantic comedies could entice demographics who weren’t eager to return to the cinema or bring back customers seeking a different genre on the big screen.
These reissues allow movie theaters to have additional content and sell “Bros” to the public, said Fathom CEO Ray Nutt.
Letitia Wright stars as Shuri in Marvel Studio’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”.
Likewise, Disney hopes that the “Avatar” re-release in late September will lure fans and increase interest in the upcoming “The Way of Water” sequel.
“The box office currently stands at over $5.3 billion a year, much higher than the past two years right now, but obviously lower than in 2019 and 2018,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.
“With big movies like ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ in November and of course ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ in December, the industry is likely to wind up with a projected domestic box office of about $7.5 billion by 2022,” he said. . “That’s honestly a great outcome for an industry that saw the 2020 level at just $2.3 billion and a 2021 ending at $4.6 billion.”
Dergarabedian and Robbins noted that 2023 will have a much stronger lineup of films, both in terms of number of films and diversity of content. As more and more films appear, the overall domestic box office is expected to recover more strongly.
The 2022 box office lost “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” which was slated for December 21, last month when Warner Bros. Discovery pushed the film to March 17, 2023. It replaced “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom”, which will now arrive on Christmas Day in 2023.
“The first quarter is full of big movies that need to build momentum that should lead to a strong summer next year,” said Dergarabedian.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and TBEN.