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The 2023 box office needs a strong second half after an inconsistent start

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LOS ANGELES — The 2023 box office is slowly approaching pre-pandemic levels, but inconsistent showings from blockbuster features in the first six months of the year will put significant pressure on second-half releases.

While the domestic box office posted $4.46 billion in ticket sales through June 30, up nearly 20% from the same period in 2022, it still lags behind 2019, the norm sometime before the pandemic, according to data from Comscore. .

Ticket sales are down 21% from where they were four years ago, but that’s not the only thing down. As well as the number of wide versions.

From January to June 30 in 2019, 57 films were released in 2,000 or more theaters. In 2023, there have been only 45 issues over the same period.

“It’s really not a fair comparison, just converting dollars into dollars,” said Mike Polidoros, CEO at PaperAirplane Media.

And quantity matters. While blockbusters and franchise films can draw large crowds, a steady stream of low- to mid-budget films is also crucial to the overall success of the industry. Diversity of content is also key, with audiences clamoring for a wide range of films, from horror and drama to romance and comedy.

Industry experts told CNBC that the more opportunities audiences have to go to movie theaters, the better.

hit and miss

Of course, quality is also a big factor in a movie’s box office success. It’s not enough just to fill the yearly menu with product; The product must be good.

So far this year, the box office has seen a number of blockbusters fall short of expectations after they were expected to attract moviegoers and boost local productions.

Warner Bros.“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” and “The Flash” underperformed dramatically, as did Disney “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” and “The Elemental”.

while, universal “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” Disney’s “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3” f Sony Along with a slew of horror movie titles including Paramount “Scream VI” and “M3gan” from Universal.

Still image from Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”.


“Although some releases haven’t lived up to bullish expectations on their individual terms, overall the 2023 box office so far is as healthy as expected,” said Sean Robbins, Senior Analyst at

The biggest takeaway from the first half of the year, Robbins said, is that comic books and nostalgia-driven movies “have never been as fresh as they used to be.” While older audiences of millennials have been the driving force behind much of the past couple of years in the box office rebound, the studios would do well to start catering to the younger generations in the future, he said.

“Moviegoers will be more selective with the content they choose to spend money on, especially since the broader economy and stagnant wage growth continues to be an issue for most average Americans,” Robbins said.

Summer is humming or fading?

That decline has already begun with the 2023 summer movie season.

Beginning on the first Friday in May and running through Labor Day weekend, the summer movie season typically accounts for 40% of all movie ticket sales for the year.

So far through July 2, the summer box office has totaled $1.88 billion. That’s 1.7% lower than 2022 levels over the same period, according to Comscore data.

In the summer of 2022, the box office gets a boost with Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick, a Paramount and Skydance movie. Between its May 27 and July 2 releases last year, the film grossed $555.4 million, making it the highest-grossing film during that time at the box office, according to Comscore.

For comparison, this summer’s highest-grossing movie so far is Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3, which was released May 5 and has earned $354.9 million through July 2.

“While the year passes before 2022, summer numbers are struggling at this point to outpace last year,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore. He noted that 2022 also featured “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and Universal’s Jurassic World: Dominion.

So far this summer, it hasn’t been a huge hit at the box office. While the third Guardians movie and Sony’s animated Spider-Man sequel did well, it remains to be seen if other recently released films, such as Disney’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Universal’s Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken or Paramount’s will add a movie. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” significantly reduced the domestic box office.

“More films on the slate have boosted year-to-date earnings, while some underperforming summer blockbusters have put severe pressure on releases waiting their turn in the multiplier to live up to the promise of their lineage and marketing,” he said.

These include the long-awaited “Barbie,” Universal’s “Oppenheimer,” Disney’s “Haunted Mansion,” and Paramount’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem,” all of which will be released before Labor Day.

“It’s important to keep in mind that the compressed ecosystem of the 18-week summer movie season has more pronounced ups and downs than any full year, and it’s far too soon to make any big pronouncements about the eventual success or failure of the movie period,” said Dergarabedian. “The good news is that some of the summer’s biggest blockbusters are coming out this month, and as a secret weapon, August is full of high-profile films that can give your summer a turbo boost.”

the other half

Among the expected half-back movies: Sony is set to bring Spider-Man villain Kraven the Hunter to the big screen in October; Universal has “The Exorcist: The Believer” and “Trolls Band Together”; and Warner Bros. It has “Dune: Part Two,” “Wonka,” and “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.”

Disney is set to release Marvels and Wish, and Lionsgate has The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

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“The second half of summer looks very strong, much better than last year,” said Polidoros. “I wouldn’t be surprised if 2023 approaches $10 billion in box office grosses.”

That would cut the 2023 box office by about 12% from 2019 for the full year. Of course, Polidoros warned that the current Writers Guild of America strike could affect the box office this year and next, if film production shutdowns persist and release dates are pushed back.’s Robbins also addressed Hollywood’s labor concerns, stating that the ongoing writers’ strike and the threat of an actors’ strike could derail progress at the domestic box office over the past two years.

For Robbins, reaching 2019 levels in 2023 was “not at all a realistic goal”. What matters, he said, is continued growth year after year. This year’s domestic box office target should be to top last year’s $7.5 billion.

“With all of that in mind, I think there is still plenty of reason to be optimistic about where the industry is in the long term, but there are always hurdles to overcome,” he said. “Audiences reported their willingness to visit cinemas on a regular basis when films are attractive in nature and generate positive buzz among peer circles.”

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



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