Why are movie theaters showing so few movies now?

After “Bullet Train,” Sony’s action movie starring Brad Pitt, hits theaters next week, the August, September, and October movie slate becomes bleak. It’s hard to find any blockbusters in the mix. In fact, there aren’t many movies that can open past $50 million at the box office until Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” which doesn’t open until Nov. 11.
The lack of films comes in a year that is already far behind Hollywood’s pre-pandemic output. At this point in 2019, there were 63 nationwide launches in North America, according to comscore (SCORE). This year, the figure is 39, a drop of 38% compared to three years ago.
Despite the delay, 2022 has mostly been kept. Ticket sales are roughly 30% behind pre-pandemic levels in 2019, which is pretty good considering the lack of movies hitting theaters.

So where are all the movies? A lot is still being produced and released, but a lot is headed straight to streaming or delayed because the industry is experiencing many of the same issues as the rest of the economy.

In short, Hollywood has supply chain problems.

Slowdown in Tinseltown

“A number of persistent issues related to supply chain and production chain backups have affected several films,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, told CNN Business. “It’s important to remember that studios map out their release strategies from six months to a year or more in most cases.”

While summer movies have been a “resounding success” in theaters, the industry is “still catching up with audience sentiment and expectations for new content on the big screen,” Robbins added.

Think back to two years ago, when studios were delaying movies almost every day as the coronavirus pandemic upended Hollywood. The repercussions of these decisions are still being felt today.

There’s also another reason why theaters may not have the normal amount of movies: streaming.

As streaming becomes more of a focus for media companies, studios now find themselves supplying both rooms and streamers. Some movies that seem perfect for theaters, like 20th Century Studios’ “Prey,” the next installment in the “Predator” franchise, are headed exclusively to streaming instead of the big screen. In fact, many of the movies from 20th Century Studio and Searchlight Pictures are now only on Hulu.

“It’s no secret that studios are looking to diversify distribution strategies while streamers are looking to expand content offerings and compete among subscriber bases,” Robbins said.

A direct streaming strategy makes sense for many films. And “a big-budget movie that goes straight to streaming can have a low box office ceiling to begin with,” Robbins added. Otherwise, it would make “little sense to cut off this lucrative revenue stream.”

Silver trimmings

While there may not be many blockbuster movies in theaters for the next few weeks, there will still be movies to watch.

There are smaller films like A24’s horror film “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” opening Aug. 5, the twisty “Don’t Worry Darling” starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles on September 23, the romantic comedy “Bros.” on September 30, “Halloween Ends,” the next and potentially final film in the Halloween franchise, on October 14, and “Black Adam,” a superhero movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, on October 21.

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Any of these films can surprise and find an audience.

There will even be blockbusters from yesteryear hitting theaters with IMAX re-releases of “ET: The Extra Terrestrial” in August and “Jaws” in September.

Also, with the lack of movies hitting theaters, this summer’s hits like “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru” can continue to boost ticket sales.

So there are quite a few positives for theaters in the coming months. However, that doesn’t change the fact that “Wakanda Forever,” Hollywood’s next big blockbuster hope, feels forever away.

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