The film calendar for the 1st Quarter of 2022 runs from 1/7 – 4/7, with this late start the result of an unusual 53rd film week added into 2021, with Friday falling on the last day of the year. We will continue to compare the current year to the benchmark of 2019, taking results from 2020 and 2021 as anomalies due to pandemic disruptions.
As the new year began, the industry was still living off the historic run of SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME. Through 1/13, the picture had grossed $676M and climbed to 6th place on the list of highest-grossing films of all time in the domestic market. The momentum from SPIDER-MAN is evaporating before our eyes, as January offers no new titles with breakout potential.
JANUARY: On 1/3, an already precarious quarter was further eroded when Sony announced a delay to the opening of MORIBUS, pushing it back from 1/28 to 4/1. Kicking off the year on 1/7, THE 355 failed to catch on, grossing only $4.6M its opening weekend. This is followed by SCREAM on 1/14, REDEEMING LOVE on 1/21, and nothing significant for 1/28. With a mere four pictures in wide release and only SCREAM expected to do meaningful business ($40M+), the month of January will see a dramatic slowdown to the progress made by the industry in Q4. The three-day weekend of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, normally a good weekend at the box office, will pass quietly into the record books.
FEBRUARY: Both MOONFALL and JACKASS FOREVER will open on 2/4, and should favorably position the start of the month, as their comp from 2019 was MISS BALA, which only produced $15M for its total run. In the following week, the 2/11 openings of DEATH ON THE NILE, MARRY ME and BLACKLIGHT combined will not add up to the $106M turned in by THE LEGO MOVIE 2 in 2019. UNCHARTED arrives on 2/18 and is expected to gross over $100M for its entire run. 2/25 will bring THE DEVIL’S LIGHT, STUDIO 666, and CYRANO, finishing off the month on a very quiet note when compared to 2019’s HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON that produced $161M for its entire run. Once again, February will be a very challenging month, with UNCHARTED the only new movie likely to do significant business.
MARCH: The last month of the quarter will start strong with THE BATMAN opening on 3/4. This will be the biggest picture of the quarter by far, with the potential to soar to a healthy $250M for its run in theatres. Unfortunately, CAPTAIN MARVEL opened one week later in 2019 and earned a staggering $427M total box office. Disney delivered a heavy blow to the exhibition when it redirected its planned release of TURNING RED from a 3/11 opening in theatres to an exclusive run on Disney+. TURNING RED is the 25th Pixar animated feature and held the potential for $100M in the box office, which would have helped theatres offset the CAPTAIN MARVEL effect from 2019. As of now, nothing on the schedule to open wide on 3/11. The 3/18 opening of DOWNTON ABBEY followed by THE LOST CITY on 3/25 should help, but MORIBUS’ debut on 4/1 will come too late to help much.
As this run-down shows, Q1 will be very challenging, with a lineup that pales in comparison to 2019’s new openers.
Q1 of 2022 may struggle to achieve 50% of the box office results from the same period in 2019. Note that the tenth highest-grossing picture in Q1 of 2022 (MARRY ME) will gross only $25M compared with $70M from number ten in 2019 (A MADEA FAMILY FUNERAL). Because of this lack of depth, we are projecting that results in the Domestic market will come in at only $1.0B – $1.1B, approximately 46% of the results from 2019. After four consecutive quarters of an increase in the percentage comparison to 2019, the industry will take a step back in that comparison in Q1 2022.
We do not feel that Omicron is the core reason for this decline. Audiences have continued to demonstrate that they will show up in sell-out numbers for appealing movies, performances, and sporting events. In fact, ticket sales for SPIDERMAN: NO WAY HOME soared in December despite Omicron’s surge. That said, media reports of the latest apocalypse caused studios to take a long, hard look at upcoming release dates, worrying that the public might once again retreat from moviegoing and other forms of out-of-home entertainment.
Even prior to recent studio release changes, we were already predicting a revenue drop due to a lack of must-see movies releasing during the quarter. This was only exacerbated by MORBIUS and TURNING RED shifting out of the schedule. Thankfully, many high-profile pictures that were originally expected in 2021 are still on the horizon for 2022, such as TOP-GUN: MAVERICK (5/27), MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 7 (9/30), and AVATAR 2 (12/16). Until those reinforcements arrive, Q1 looks to be a quarter when exhibitors will need to hunker down and survive.