January can be a good month at the box office. Awards-focused films expand wider, horror films resurface, and broad crowd-pleasers can bring in big bucks. Look no further than Kevin Hart, who established a cottage industry of sorts with hit after hit in January, from RIDE ALONG and RIDE ALONG 2 to THE WEDDING PLANNER and THE UPSIDE.
But so far this year, it appears as though the entire motion picture machine has slowed to a crawl. In a typical January, we would get upwards of ten new releases. This year the major studios gave us three: a winning horror film (SCREAM), a largely ignored action flick (THE 355), and a faith-based movie that mainly went unnoticed (REDEEMING LOVE). That’s it. Three films. And there are no new wide releases scheduled for this upcoming weekend.
Some of this can be attributed to Omicron. Not that long ago, there were three additional films on the January release calendar (CYRANO, MORBIUS, and OPERATION FORTUNE: RUSE DE GUERRE), but these moved further into the spring to avoid the new Covid variant. But even if they had stayed put, it would have been a quiet January.
Not only have there been very few films, but the trailers have dried up too. It has been more than two weeks since we got a trailer from a major studio, the last being THE BOB’S BURGERS MOVIE on January 10th.
While the near wholesale abandonment of January is surprising, it may speak to the new normal where far fewer films are released theatrically. Between 2001 and 2019, on average, the studios released 130 wide releases per year. It peaked at 155 movies in 2007 before settling into the 110-130 range.
So far, there are 89 films scheduled for wide release in 2022. That number will undoubtedly shift, but the final number is likely to be down from 2019.
That may be a good thing. There’s a case to be made that audiences don’t need more than two new films a week. It could even be argued that one new movie a week is all that’s needed. And given the near binary selectivity that audiences have demonstrated over the past few months (“Yes, I’ll see that film”…”No way I’m seeing that one”), studios would be wise to think twice about what films are worthy of a theatrical-sized marketing spend.
With that in mind, there is one film that is NOT scheduled for theatrical release, but perhaps should be. That film is HOCUS POCUS 2, which is currently being developed to stream on Disney+.
The Franchise Score – A Sneak Peak
Let’s face it; it’s franchise films and sequels that fill seats. To address that, The Quorum will be introducing a new metric this spring to measure the audience appetite for sequels. Specifically, we present respondents with film franchises, and we ask a series of questions that get at whether people want to see another movie in the franchise or if the series feels tired or played out.
The Quorum measures the health of over 80 franchises. Some have entries approaching release; others are in production or in development. Some are real. Others may never materialize.
The table below shows you the percentage of people who said they want to see another film in the franchise. HOCUS ranks 16th among all respondents.
When we look at women, HOCUS jumps to #6. We know that women are much harder to attract to the theater these days, so identifying a franchise that resonates with that audience is essential.
The franchise numbers for HOCUS align closely with the other tracking metrics. It ranks in the top 20 on all The Quorum metrics. It has achieved these scores with just about no marketing push at all. Some set photos were released a few months ago, but there’s no trailer. There isn’t a confirmed release date. And yet, the numbers for HOCUS continue to excel on The Quorum.
It’s clear why the studio wants to hold the film for its Disney+ streaming platform. There’s no doubt that a movie like HOCUS POCUS 2 would generate sizable sign-ups. But in this case, Disney might be sitting on the rare female-skewing event film that will fill seats in theaters.