THE SIXTH SENSE Premieres on 8/2/1999
Box Office Results… 7/30 – 8/1
Hollywood Wanted to Go Back to Business as Usual. The Delta Variant Had Other Plans
Imax Boss Says “Cannibalization” Hurt ‘Black Widow’, Thinks Disney Will Return To Theatrical Window Releases
Comcast Reports Strong Q2 Earnings, NBCUniversal Bounces Back
Gen Zers Are Vital to Movie Theaters’ Recovery. Here’s How Theaters Can Win Them Over
CEO Q&A: Greg Marcus on the rebound of theaters and hotels
Studio Releases… 8/6 – 8/12
Studio Releases… 8/13 – 8/19
THE SIXTH SENSE Premieres on 8/2/1999
We know how most movies will end before we see them. Boy loses girl, but gets girl back. Killers are captured or shot escaping. Superheroes live to save the universe again. Horror villains survive to return in sequels. A notable exception to audience expectations came with the premiere Aug. 2, 1999 of M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller “THE SIXTH SENSE.”
No one was expecting its now legendary ending, although the filmmakers worried they’d given some visual clues that might reveal too much about those “dead people” Haley Joel Osment famously insisted he could see. As it turned out, the clues went unseen. What was seen were long lines at theatres, where Universal opened “SIXTH” to a then sizable $26.7M. It did $672.8M worldwide, kick-starting Shyamalan’s career. Twenty-two years later, he’s still one of very few directors whose names are well enough known to bring moviegoers into theatres.
When Shyamalan’s latest film, “OLD,” opened #1 last weekend, it was his sixth out of 11 films to do so. Since “SIXTH,” he’s become identified with twist endings that leave audiences wondering how they missed seeing them. Over the years, of course, some films worked better globally than others — like “SIGNS” (2016) with $408.2M, “THE LAST AIRBENDER” (2010) with $319.7M, “SPLIT” (2016) with $278.5M & “UNBREAKABLE” (2000) with $248.1M.
As enviable as Shyamalan’s successes have been, there’s also a long list of high profile projects he turned down along the way. Shyamalan reportedly was offered “HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE,” the franchise’s first episode, recommended by his friend Steven Spielberg, who was originally considering directing it. Post-production conflicts with “UNBREAKABLE” kept Shyamalan from signing on. After Shyamalan’s blockbuster success with his next film, “SIGNS,” he was offered “HP AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN,” but declined in order to do “THE VILLAGE.” He also might have directed “HP AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE,” but proceeded instead with a deal (that ultimately stalled) to adapt and direct “THE LIFE OF PI.” Shyamalan then moved on to direct his own original screenplay “LADY IN THE WATER.”
Other high profile offers followed in the early 2000’s and also were passed on, including writing and directing new takes on “SPIDER-MAN,” “SUPERMAN” or “BATMAN.” Shyamalan felt he’d already done his own superhero film, “UNBREAKABLE,” and didn’t want to repeat himself. And that’s a twist Hollywood didn’t see coming!
Box Office Results
Box Office Results… 7/30 – 8/1
It came as no surprise that Jungle Cruise won the weekend. With $34M, the 3-day total easily out-distanced the second place finisher The Green Knight with $6.7M. In fact, it was somewhat of a surprise that the Disney release did not do better. A decently-reviewed, well-liked, heart of the summer, family-oriented action picture with star power had the potential to do even better. Even when taking into account the effect of the Delta variant and competition from streaming release on Disney+, Jungle Cruise had a perfect formula to deliver large audiences to theatres. The original Pirates of the Caribbean grossed $70M in its first 5 days when it opened on Wednesday 7/9/2003, the equivalent of more than $100M in 2021 dollars.
A positive note was struck by A-24’s The Green Knight. Riding very favorable reviews – 89% Rotten Tomatoes – the $6.7M opening weekend gross was well above the $2M – $4M that most had predicted. Following in 3rd to 5th place, we have any one of Stillwater, Old, and Snake Eyes, with the actual order being too close to call. Next week will feature The Suicide Squad (2021), which appears to be on higher trajectory than this week’s Jungle Cruise. Given that the original Suicide Squad (2016) opened to $133M on the same weekend five years ago, the industry would be thrilled if this year’s release did a mere half of that amount in its opening weekend.
|Rank||Title (Distributor)||Week||# Theatres||Weekend $||Per Theatre Average $||Total $|
|1||Jungle Cruise (Walt Disney Studios)||1||4,310||$35,018,731||$8,125||$35,018,731|
|2||Old (Universal Pictures)||2||3,379||$6,862,425||$2,031||$23,717,160|
|3||The Green Knight (A24)||1||2,790||$6,790,917||$2,434||$6,790,917|
|4||Black Widow (Walt Disney Studios)||4||3,360||$6,471,183||$1,926||$124,303,889|
|5||Stillwater (Focus Features)||1||2,531||$5,188,150||$2,050||$5,188,150|
Hollywood Wanted to Go Back to Business as Usual. The Delta Variant Had Other Plans (Variety)
The Delta variant has thrown a monkey wrench into the recovery of the film industry. Until recently, it seemed that a return to moviegoing was well on its way, with studios delivering a steady flow of major new releases and box office grosses climbing back from their pandemic lows. Major international film festivals had been held once again in New York and Cannes with in-person attendance and studios were holding star-studded premieres to promote new releases such as Jungle Cruise and Stillwater.
However, progress on the rollout of vaccines has slowed, as many have remained unconvinced of its life-saving benefits. The highly infectious Delta variant of the virus has taken hold, increasing the risk of infections, especially among unvaccinated populations. As a result, many health authorities have renewed their recommendations to mask-up when spending time in indoor settings, even for those who have been vaccinated.
Exhibitors are worried that these new developments will dampen enthusiasm from moviegoers to return to theatres. If it does, studios may once again push back theatrical release dates for their upcoming movies, as they did regularly during the height of the pandemic. While this outcome is not at all certain, it is being discussed once again. Thankfully, these worries were somewhat alleviated by an encouraging $34M performance at the box office for opening weekend of Disney’s Jungle Cruise. At the very least, COVID’s Delta variant has introduced a degree of uncertainty in what had been expected as a steady road to recovery.
Imax Boss Says “Cannibalization” Hurt ‘Black Widow’, Thinks Disney Will Return To Theatrical Window Releases (Deadline)
This week, IMAX reported strong results for its second quarter, posting revenues of $51M compared with $8.9M from Q2 of 2020. In his comments in a quarterly earnings call with investors, CEO Rich Gelfond predicted a robust recovery for his company and for exhibition overall. IMAX is well positioned for growth as the pandemic lifts, with its focus on presenting the most current blockbusters from major studios in their large-screen format. Studios are expected to maintain a robust theatrical release calendar for this type of film, and IMAX is less reliant on revenues earned from long-runs for any one film, since most IMAX locations have only one or several screens and can therefore shift to the next major title as soon as it is released. Blockbuster titles such as Godzilla vs. Kong, F9: the Fast Saga and Black Widow during their opening 1-2 weeks are a sweet spot for exhibitors.
Gelfond commented on the results from Disney’s recent “experiment” in releasing Black Widow and Jungle Cruise simultaneously to theatres and on Disney+, saying that he expects Disney and other major studios will all move back to a release plan that includes an exclusive theatrical release window. He spelled out how studios maximize their earnings. “They used to sell the same property five times, and now they’re selling it once. They might be bringing some revenue forward, but there’s no proof points that it’s a better model…Black Widow was a great movie, so when I think about it, there was no doubt a lot of money was left on the table.”
Comcast Reports Strong Q2 Earnings, NBCUniversal Bounces Back (IndieWire)
In its Q2 earnings announcement earlier this week, NBCUniversal highlighted significant growth in its Peacock streaming service, with 12M new users having signed up for the service during the quarter. 54M users have signed up for Peacock since the service launched on 7/15/2020, though only 20M users maintain “active” accounts. The company did not provide specific details on what constitutes an “active” account, since the service provides both a free, advertising-supported tier as well as a premium pay subscription level.
NBCUniversal has actively invested in original content to entice new users to try Peacock, including recent day & date releases of the feature Boss Baby 2, the high-profile original series Dr. Death and broadcasts of the Tokyo Olympic Games. As a result, Peacock has significantly increased its profile in the landscape of streaming services, with a rollout in the coming months in Europe through a distribution partnership with UK-based Sky, which will provide the service to an additional 20M viewers.
Gen Zers Are Vital to Movie Theaters’ Recovery. Here’s How Theaters Can Win Them Over (Morning Consult)
Even prior to the arrival of COVID-19, exhibitors were actively considering how best to attract younger audiences to the theatre. Last week, Morning Consult published a report with results from a recent survey they conducted of Gen Z consumers (ages 13-24) to gauge their interest in going to cinemas. The report includes both positive and negative indicators. On the down side, 70% of the Gen Zers surveyed indicated that the early availability of new films online was one reason why they would not see those films in a movie theatre. The perceived “high price” of movie tickets was also an issue, with 72% citing cost as another reason they might choose not to see a movie in a theatre.
On the positive side, 78% of those polled said that they would visit theatres more frequently if they offered lower priced tickets or special discounts on concessions/tickets bundles. In addition, theatres may regain some traction with young customers if major studios return to their traditional distribution model which begins with an exclusive theatrical release window, which is widely expected next year once the disruptions of the pandemic have subsided.
CEO Q&A: Greg Marcus on the rebound of theaters and hotels (Wisconsin State Journal)
Wisconsin-based Marcus Corporation is North America’s 4th largest exhibitor, with Marcus Theatres operating 1,097 movie screens at 89 cinemas across 10 U.S. states. The company also maintains substantial operations in hospitality, with Marcus Hotels & Resorts owning or managing 20 properties with over 5,000 guest rooms. Unfortunately, both moviegoing and travel were severely curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, though the company appears to have weathered the storm and is looking forward to a robust recovery in both businesses.
The Wisconsin State Journal interviewed company CEO Greg Marcus, who spoke about the recovery of both the hotel and exhibition businesses, including improvements to the moviegoing experience, particularly in the area of using technology to streamline the purchase of tickets and concessions when visiting the theatre.
Interviewer: So long term looks good for your company?
Greg Marcus: At the end of the day, people want to be together. They want to travel, they want to get away, they want to be with other people. It’s just the human condition. Watching a movie in a theater isn’t like watching a movie at home.
Studio Release Calendar