What a difference a year makes. Last January, the major studios only gave us three new releases. This year, we got five. Granted, five wide releases in a month is still on the light side, and there are no new films this coming weekend, but overall it’s a significant improvement over last year.
Not only did we get more films, but the openings were higher. Last year, SCREAM was the only winner opening to $30M. The other two films, THE 355 and REDEEMING LOVE, failed to open above $5M.
This year, we got another $30M horror hit (M3GAN), but beyond that, there was a little something for everybody. Adult audiences lifted A MAN CALLED OTTO to a $13M opening in its expansion, action fans propelled PLANE to a solid $10M start, and younger audiences showed up for MISSING. Even HOUSE PARTY did decent numbers in only 1,400 theaters.
This is noteworthy for a few reasons. As we’ve written before, the 2022 release calendar was filled with holes. Coming out of the pandemic, there simply weren’t enough movies to fill theaters. The pandemic disrupted production cycles, pushing release dates further into 2022 and 2023. As a result, January, August, and September of last year had very few new movies.
The lack of new content results in fewer dollars spent in theaters and can lead to a low attendance cycle. In this cycle, lower box office leads to less foot traffic in theaters, which means fewer people are exposed to marketing material from trailers and standees. This, in turn, leads to low awareness for upcoming releases, which, you guessed it, results in lower box office. Rinse and repeat.
The easiest way to break the cycle is to release more films.
It’s worth noting that none of the January films were able to open #1 at the box office. AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATE has remained in the top spot except for one day when M3GAN outgrossed Avatar by $300,000 on Friday, January 6th. This begs the question, do rising tides lift all ships? Does the success of AVATAR beget success for other films? Think of it as the High Attendance Cycle.
There is muscle memory to going to the theater. We know that a sizable number of people haven’t returned to the big screen since the pandemic. Getting those people to show up for just one film can trigger memories of the theater-going experience’s magic. As we wrap up January 2023 at the box office, let’s celebrate the fact that there are more movies, that audiences are showing up, and that we may be nearing an end to the hole-filled release schedule of 2022.