A recurring frustration for exhibitors during the pandemic has been the merry-go-round of studio release changes, with theatrical releases for major films either being pushed back repeatedly or cancelled outright and redirected to streaming. These changes have wreaked havoc for exhibitors while attempting to set plans for re-opening cinemas and re-hiring staff. When there are no new films, there are no moviegoers.
This article from The Observer looks at the impact of Disney’s recent decision to push back the release of Black Widow from May 7th to July 9th. Because of the pace of recovery over the next several months, they conclude that Disney improved the outlook for its Domestic box office from an estimated $63M with a May release to $170M with a July release.
This dramatic improvement is based on the prediction that many more theatres will have re-opened and ramped back up in the next two months. Note that as of this weekend, only 55% of theatres in North America are operating, though that percentage has been increasing substantially every week. In addition, a much higher percentage of the population will have been fully vaccinated by July, making more consumers more comfortable than venturing out to the cinema is a safe activity.
Studios have relied on the robust earnings from a global theatrical release to turn a profit on expensive productions such as Black Widow. Ironically, the fact that these blockbusters have continued to be postponed validates that theatrical releasing plays an essential role in the distribution of these types of films.