by Ray Keating
September 8, 2022
The headlines about Bob Iger’s views on the future of the movie business seem to be everywhere. And since Iger is no longer Disney’s CEO, he apparently feels comfortable talking more freely about his take on the future of people heading to the movie theater.
Speaking at Vox Media’s Code Conference in Beverly Hills on Wednesday (September 7), the headline takeaway is that Iger doesn’t see theatergoing returning to pre-pandemic levels … ever.
According to CNBC’s report, Iger declared, “I don’t think movies ever return, in terms of moviegoing, to the level that they were at pre-pandemic.” Iger didn’t say that movies were dead, but he argued that the convenience of streaming was the key to restraining movies in theaters.
Now, Iger might be right. But as time passes, the unknowns about how much streaming will cut into theater attendance arguably have only grown. There certainly are anecdotes that raise questions about Iger’s assertion, such as the success of a film like Top Gun: Maverick ($1.44 billion globally, including $702 million domestic) and the fact that I recently went to a Fathom Events showing of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, originally released in 1982, to a pretty darn full theater.
Along these lines, CNBC raises some critical points, including the following:
Between January and the end of August, the domestic box office generated around $5.3 billion, down around 31% compared to 2019. It remains on pace to deliver around $7.5 billion in total ticket sales by the end of the year. For comparison, in 2019 the box office tallied $11.4 billion for the full year. There are other factors leading to this decline in box office, including a significantly smaller number of film releases. Only 46 films have been widely released domestically during the first eight months of the year. During the same period in 2019, 75 films had been released widely.
Considering the reduction in the number of releases, the falloff in box office revenues in 2022 versus 2019 isn’t out of line. In fact, the revenue numbers seem to have held up fairly well given that smaller number of releases.
For good measure, it pays to keep in mind that attendance at sporting events has recovered to a significant degree, with MLB attendance in 2022 down by about 5 percent versus the same time in 2019. And in 2021, NFL attendance actually moved above the 2019 level.
If studios get back to sending quality films to movie theaters, will the box office really never get back to 2019 levels due to streaming? Hmmm. Bob Iger thinks so. I’m not so sure.
Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com; and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers and mysteries, and the Alliance of Saint Michael novels; and assorted nonfiction books. Have Ray Keating speak your group, business, school, church, or organization. Email him at email@example.com.
The views expressed here are his own – after all, no one else should be held responsible for this stuff, right?
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