THIRD QUARTER WILL SLOW MOMENTUM AS STUDIOS WALK AWAY FROM AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER
This year’s third quarter runs from Friday, July 8th through Thursday, October 6th and includes film weeks 27-39. Due to the stabilization of the box office, we will once again begin to compare current quarter results with those from the same quarter last year. By this time in 2021, almost all theatres had reopened from their pandemic closures and studios had settled into a predictable release schedule. Here is our forecast for the third quarter of 2022.
JULY – The third quarter opened with a roar, on the strength of a $187M opening week for Marvel Studio’s THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER. This continued the momentum created during the last five weeks of the second quarter. However, THOR suffered a serious setback when the box office for its second weekend dropped by 68% from its opening results. The new titles for 7/15 – WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING and PAWS OF FURY: THE LEGEND OF HANK – were not able to make up for THOR’s decline.
There is optimism for NOPE which opens on 7/22. Jordan Peele’s creepy Sci-fi Horror flick has already received high praise from critics and may go on to earn as much as $160M, which would make it the second highest-grossing film of the quarter. July will end with the 7/29 release of DC LEAGUE OF SUPER-PETS, which should generate a family business in the neighborhood of $100M over its total run.
AUGUST – BULLET TRAIN with Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock will open on 8/5 and is the last new picture of the quarter with the potential to gross over $100M. It should monopolize the box office for weeks, with only minor films remaining in the summer pipeline. FALL on 8/12, BEAST and DRAGON BALL SUPER: SUPER HERO on 8/19, and THE INVITATION on 8/26 will all struggle to hit $35M for their full run. This film drought will hold down 2022 third-quarter results in comparison to 2021.
SEPTEMBER – Labor Day weekend kicks off on 9/2 with 3000 YEARS OF LONGING and the “fan cut” re-issue of SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME – THE MORE FUN STUFF VERSION. New scenes and outtakes have been added that were not included in the original release, similar to the approach studios used to use to promote special DVD editions of popular titles. Sony execs are hoping that this playbook can work again this year, and will re-energize audiences that loved the original. It may or may not work.
Note that Disney opened SHANG CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS for Labor Day last year, which went on to gross $208M within the quarter. This will be hard to match in 2022, which will challenge 2022 to 2021 third-quarter comparison. The rest of the month includes BARBARIAN and DARK HARVEST on 9/9, THE WOMAN KING and SEE HOW THEY RUN on 9/16, DON’T WORRY DARLING, and a re-issue of AVATAR on 9/23 – at the insistence of James Cameron.
The month will end with the 9/30 releases of BROS and SMILE. All September titles will struggle to draw audiences, with the possible exception of the re-issues of SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME and AVATAR, which could emerge to earn the highest grosses of the month. The industry will be watching closely, given Hollywood’s propensity to see and copy a successful release strategy.
This is our ranking of the top ten pictures of the third quarter this year compared to those from 2021.
Top 10 Q3 Pictures – 2021 vs. 2022 ($M)
As a result of studios easing up over the late summer and September, the box office will cool off significantly and leave exhibitors feeling somewhat abandoned. The last picture of the quarter with real potential is BULLET TRAIN, which opens on 8/5 and should run ahead of all comers over the final eight weeks of the quarter. In our opinion, the quarter would have had room for two or three more titles with $100M potential.
The first two quarters of 2022 finished at 68% compared with the same period in 2019, and we predict that the first three quarters will come in at 66% of 2019 after 39 weeks.
The third quarter of 2022 will finish at 113% of Q3 2021. Although it’s a bigger number than last year, this is still disappointing because exhibitors had hoped for better. If the fourth quarter does not show a meaningful increase from last year, some may conclude that lower box office levels are a “new normal” for the industry.