Even while box offices were relatively quiet this week, exhibitor stocks were surging on Wall Street. The trading prices for shares in AMC, Cinemark, IMAX, and Cineplex all rose significantly, in part buoyed by reports that Amazon is planning to spend more than $1 billion on “12 to 15” theatrical releases.
At that level, Amazon’s output would rival that of traditional studios such as Paramount and Warner Bros. It would also go a long way towards addressing the biggest issue afflicting exhibitors… a lack of films released to theatres.
While the exhibition has rebounded significantly this year, based on the blockbuster success of TOP GUN: MAVERICK and support from a handful of solid performers including THE BATMAN, MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU, and JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION, the 2022 box office is still significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels.
One reason commonly given for the shortfall is the lack of new movies released to theatres, with Disney, Netflix, Apple and Amazon targeting a significant number of their new releases to their branded streaming platforms.
Exhibitors had hoped that Netflix might be warming up to the value of theatrical releasing when they announced that GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY would have a one-week run in theatres for the Thanksgiving holiday week before it debuted on Netflix for Christmas. However, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos dispelled any hope for a change in direction from the streamer, stating clearly that his company’s mission is about entertaining its members with Netflix movies on Netflix.
However, not all new-age studios are immune to the lure of the big screen, as many continue to lose billions as they plough huge sums into creating new content to compete for the at-home streaming audience. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, for one, has announced that his studio will increase the number of new movies released in theatres during 2023. Paramount execs were rewarded by achieving a horror hit with SMILE by releasing it to theatres exclusively, rather than also offering it to its streaming customers on Paramount+.
Now comes Amazon’s big news that it will invest heavily in theatrical releases in the years ahead. This very big new kid on the block may bring new life to cinemas, and spark a renaissance in the U.S. box office… especially if its brethren Apple and Netflix see Amazon succeed and follow suit.