It’s no secret that a lack of new films from the big studios stymied the theatrical recovery of 2022. Before the pandemic, we were approaching a calendar where every weekend was big, with tentpoles expanding beyond the confines of the summer and the holidays. But last year, there was no big Valentine’s Day movie, no pre-Thanksgiving blockbuster, and no early October tentpole.
Most of that had to do with lingering pandemic supply issues, where production delays resulted in films being punted to 2023. Looking at the upcoming release schedule, there is reason to be hopeful that we may return to more studio releases spread evenly throughout the year.
We can already see that by looking at the films scheduled for release in March.
Let’s face it, March 2022 was not great for theatrical. The big studios only released two films, and while both of them – THE BATMAN and THE LOST CITY – did well, they left a massive hole in the marketplace. Smaller distributors tried to pick up the slack, but these titles struggled to find a broad audience, with neither X (A24), THE OUTFIT (Focus), nor INFINITE STORM (Bleecker Street) opening above $5M.
The lack of studio content helped two non-English titles breakthrough. JUJUTSU KAISEN 0: THE MOVIE opened to a huge $18M, while Oscar hopeful RRR debuted to a solid $9.5M. Yes, only three March releases opened above $10M, and one was a non-English anime title released by Crunchyroll.
This year, however, the March schedule looks stacked with no fewer than six films eyeing an opening above $10M. And that may be overly conservative. It’s possible that all six open above $20M.
What’s most encouraging is that none of the upcoming March titles are hugely expensive. There are no $200M production budgets. Instead, we’ve got a variety of mid-budget genre films. And these are precisely the kinds of movies that need to succeed for a healthy theatrical business. Last year, THE BATMAN accounted for nearly 60% of the March box office. This year it will be more evenly distributed across several films.
March kicks off with CREED III. The first CREED opened to $30M back in 2015. Three years later, CREED II did even better with a $36M, and the tracking data suggests that the third film in the series could do even better.
The 2022 reboot of the SCREAM opened to $30M, just shy of the franchise-best opening of $35M for SCREAM 4 (2011). Paramount quickly put another film into production, and now, 14 short months after the last movie, audiences will get SCREAM IV on March 10th.
We’ll have our first big head-to-head battle of 2023 on March 17th with SHAZAM!: FURY OF THE GODS going up against 65. The edge goes to FURY, given the first SHAZAM film opened to $54M in 2019. But don’t sleep on 65. The trailer was very well received, and it already has a very healthy interest score of 5.8. It may not approach $50M, but the robust tracking suggests it could open above $20M. Not bad for an original film.
March is anchored by JOHN WICK CHAPTER 4, which could top the $57M opening of the last WICK film. It could open much higher. It currently ranks #1 among all films currently being tracked by The Quorum in awareness and interest.
Finally, there’s DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEVES, which is not tracking especially well at two months out, but there’s plenty of time for those scores to go up.
It’s hard to overstate how vital March will be. We already know that the summer is stacked with weekend after weekend of big films. But the sign of a healthy box office is strength in the softer months. If success begets success, this March could be the first sign that we are returning to a full 52-week calendar in the future.