International Box Offices Fear as US Delays Blockbusters
By Cooper Dowd, Contributing Writer
International box office officials sounded the alarm as the United States announced further delays on MULAN and TENET, previously considered summer box office tent poles.
Although both the European and Asian box offices, the two largest behind the U.S., have reopened, there is still an anxiety that the current model is not sustainable. Furthermore, officials voiced concerns that the postponed release dates of U.S. blockbusters could tank many global exhibitors.
“If the exhibition community doesn’t have any new movies in the next few months, there will not be an exhibition community,” according to U.K. theater officials who talked with Variety. “For most, if not all big studio movies, between 70%-80% of all box office is offshore, and it feels like that’s been forgotten.”
Domestically, the negative effect of delaying the tentpole Hollywood films has increased dramatically.
On June 1, Variety reported:
The Wall Street analyst firm predicts that revenues from ticket sales will be cut in half, falling from $11.4 billion in 2019 to $5.5 billion in 2020. That’s a 52% plunge, and it’s a drop that could be even steeper if cinemas don’t reopen in July and if summer blockbusters such as “Tenet” and “Mulan” that are supposed to debut that month get pushed back deeper into the year.
Unfortunately, Wall Street’s predictions have materialized. The floundering U.S. box office means that the global box office could face dire straits as well.
Although many European theater doors opened as soon as mid-June and U.K. theaters were allowed to reopen July 4, major chains such as Vue and Cineworld do not want to reopen without the prospect of the U.S. releases.
“We are waiting to see what happens with the release dates before making any final decision, because it’s different if one movie moves versus several moving,” says Tim Richards, CEO of Vue Intl.
According to Comscore director Lucy Jones, over 35% of European theaters have reopened for the summer season, and audiences seem to be ready to return despite the cinemas’ apprehensions.
“We can see momentum and consumer confidence building, but we can’t thrive again as an industry without a concerted effort on the major releases,” Tim Richards notes. “I’d like to think, as an industry, we can look at this globally, as some U.S. states, China and Europe recover, and release films in markets that have reopened.”
Although France reopened its theaters on June 22 to 1 million admissions sold in the first week, the box office has become static. All but four of the 2,000 theaters that were reopened closed.
“If the situation doesn’t evolve or worsens, we could see more theaters taking that route,” says Marc-Olivier Sebbag, spokesperson for the FNCF.
Europe is not the only movie market forced to adapt to the lack of U.S. releases, as Asian box offices are beginning to open up under strict precautions.
The China Film Administration made a statement that included precautions for the 30% capacity reopening of theaters including, only conducting reopening in “low-risk” areas, mandatory temperature checks and masks, and the restriction of eating and drinking in the theaters.
The recent release of Yeon Sang-ho’s, PENINSULA, provided the international box office with another bright spot as the sequel to the 2016 Korean hit, TRAIN TO BUSAN, successfully opened in Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore.
According to Hollywood Reporter, PENINSULA raked in over $20 million internationally. Although the numbers are lower than last year at this time, it is the clear No. 1 release in the three markets.
Despite the box office success in Asian markets, many European exhibitors foresee a possible resurgence of independent and indie movies receiving theatrical releases due to the absence of U.S. Studios.
However, the larger theater chains concede that the local success would not be sufficient to keep their markets afloat.
Meanwhile, much of Los Angeles County remains shutdown, preventing further production on upcoming movies. According to Deadline, more than 230,000 Californians employed in the arts, entertainment and recreation sectors have filed unemployment insurance claims since the coronavirus pandemic struck in mid-March.
Some studios outside Hollywood, like Tyler Perry’s Atlanta-based production company, have restarted production.
“We can’t just sit and wait,” says CEO of Svenska Bio in Sweden, Peter Fornstam. “We have to leave the door open and hope U.S. studios will say, ‘Let’s go.'”