Why are few movies shown in movie theaters now?

After “Bullet Train,” Sony’s action flick starring Brad Pitt, hits theaters next week, the film slate for August, September and October is deserted. Hard to find any blockbusters in the mix. In fact, there aren’t many films that can top $50 million at the box office than Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” which doesn’t debut until Nov. 11.
The lack of movies comes in a year that already lags behind pre-pandemic output from Hollywood. At this point in 2019, there were 63 nationwide releases in North America, according to Low score (SCOR). This year the number is 39 – a 38% decrease from three years ago.
Despite the delay, 2022 has largely held its own. Ticket sales are almost 30% behind pre-pandemic levels in 2019, which is pretty good considering the lack of blockbuster movies in cinemas.

So where are all the movies? There is still a lot being produced and released, but many are either going straight to streaming or are being delayed because the industry is experiencing many of the same issues as the rest of the economy.

In short, Hollywood has supply chain problems.

Slow down in Tinseltown

“Many lingering issues related to supply chain and production pipeline backups have affected various movies,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, told CNN Business. “It’s important to remember that studios map out their release strategies six months to a year or more in most cases.”

Although summer movies have been a “huge success” in theaters, the industry is “still playing with audience sentiment and expectations for new content on the big screen,” Robbins added.

Think back to two years ago when studios were delaying films almost every day as the coronavirus pandemic upended Hollywood. The reverberations of those decisions are felt even today.

There’s another reason theaters may lack the usual amount of movies: streaming.

As streaming becomes more of a focus for media companies, studios find themselves supplying both theaters and streamers. Some movies that seem better suited for theaters, like 20th Century Studios’ “Prey,” the next installment in the “Predator” franchise, are going exclusively to streaming instead of the big screen. In fact, many films from 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures now go on Hulu.

“It’s no secret that studios are looking to diversify distribution strategies while streamers want to expand content offerings and compete among subscriber bases,” Robbins said.

A direct-to-streaming strategy makes sense for many movies. And “a big-budget film going straight to streaming may have a lower box office ceiling at launch,” Robbins added. Otherwise, there would be “little sense in cutting off that lucrative revenue stream.”

The silver lining

While there may not be many big hits in theaters over the next few weeks, there will still be movies to watch.

A24 has smaller movies like the horror “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” which opens Aug. 5, the twist “Don’t Worry Darling” starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles on Sept. 23, the romantic comedy “Bros.” on September 30, “Halloween Ends,” the next and likely final film in the Halloween franchise, on October 14 and “Black Adam,” the superhero film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, on October 21.

'Thor: Love and Thunder' grabs a strong opening at the box office for Marvel

Any of those films can surprise and find an audience.

There will also be blockbusters from old hitting theaters with the IMAX re-release of “ET: The Extra-Terrestrial” in August and “Jaws” in September.

Also, with a lack of movies hitting theaters, this summer’s hits like “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru” could continue to drive ticket sales.

So there are some silver linings for theaters over the next few months. However, that doesn’t change the fact that “Wakanda Forever,” Hollywood’s next big blockbuster hope, feels forever away.

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