Cinema owners optimistic about 2022 box office before CinemaCon

Still from “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”.


Superhero movies have kept the box office afloat this year, which has led cinema operators to believe that audiences may finally be ready to return to cinemas galore.

Domestic ticket sales for the first four months of the year have still fallen by around 40% compared to 2019 pre-pandemic levels, but cinemas are experiencing significant progress compared to last year.

Blockbuster titles like Warner Bros. ‘ “The Batman”, Paramount’s “Sonic 2” and Marvel-Sony’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home” have led to a 365% increase in ticket sales from 2021 and reached $ 1.85 billion, according to data from Comscore.

Cinema owners tell CNBC that they hope ticket sales will continue to rise in the coming weeks, especially after the release of Marvel’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” which kicks off this summer’s blockbuster season.

The last two years have suffered from blurred summer movie tariffs as lockdowns closed cinemas and coronavirus variants kept many potential cinema-goers at home.

The studios had been reluctant to release films because they feared that their new films would not make a profit, and many chose to postpone the titles until 2022. Now that many health and safety mandates have been lifted and consumers are apparently more comfortable with venturing back to the cinemas, the studios have stuck to their release dates.

Theaters will see a steady stream of long-awaited films following the release of “Doctor Strange” on May 6. “Top Gun: Maverick”, “Jurassic World: Dominion”, “Lightyear”, “Minions: The Rise of Gru” and “Thor: Love and Thunder” appear on the big screen in quick succession over a period of nine weeks.

“It’s fitting that a Marvel movie starts the 2022 summer movie season and, along with it, sets in motion what appears to be the first ‘normal’ May Day Labor Corridor we’ve seen in almost three years,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.

Dergarabedian noted that the industry’s summer, which spans an 18-week period, is traditionally responsible for around 40% of the domestic ticket office.

CinemaCon, a convention for Hollywood studios and cinema owners in Las Vegas, starts on Monday, with exhibitors expressing cautious optimism about this summer’s film season and the rest of the year.

The success of “The Batman” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which showed that adult audiences will return to franchise features, is arousing this optimism. The turnout for “Sonic 2”, which has generated more than $ 145.8 million in the domestic market since its release on April 8, also gives cinemas hope that “Toy Story” sequel “Lightyear” and the next movie in the Minions series will be able to entice in families.

What’s more, cinemas returning in the past year have also boosted the concession industry, according to a new report released Thursday by movie ticket site Fandango. A survey of 6,000 cinema-goers who bought a ticket on Fandango found that 93% bought concessions in the theater in the past year, up from 84% the year before.

In addition, 67% of respondents said they spent $ 20 or more on popcorn, candy, sodas and other concessions. This expense report bodes well for theater owners who do not share concession sales with studios, as they do with cinema ticket sales.

Next week at CinemaCon, exhibitors will discuss ways to lure cinema-goers who have been slow to return to cinemas, as well as how to improve the experience of going to the cinema.

Theater owners got creative during the pandemic and offered unique food and beverage options, added more mobile options for advanced ordering and payment, and diversified the content available on the big screen.

The current consensus among box office analysts and movie theater owners is that 2022 will not be able to surpass the $ 11.4 billion generated in 2019, but says they could call in nearly double the 4, $ 4 billion raised last year. Most estimate around $ 8 billion in ticket sales, with franchise films acting as the catalyst.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Fandango.

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