Black Panther - Wakanda Forever 1

Major Movie Theater Chain Raises Looming Industry Crisis Until ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ is Released in November

Cineworld, the world’s second largest theater chain after AMC Theatres and owner of Regal has said that it is “evaluating various strategic options” in the face of slowing attendance.

“Despite a gradual recovery of demand since re-opening in April 2021, recent admission levels have been below expectations,” the company said. “These lower levels of admissions are due to a limited film slate that is anticipated to continue until November 2022 and are expected to negatively impact trading and the Group’s liquidity position in the near term.”

November happens to be when Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” hits theaters, and until then, tentpole theatrical releases will be lacking.

While the box office this year has seen substantial growth from the last two years, thanks to hits like “Top Gun: Maverick,” it’s still far below pre-pandemic levels.

Ahead of this past weekend, the US box office was at $5 billion compared to $7.3 billion at the same point in 2019, according to Comscore. A lack of product in theaters is one major reason for that; studios are releasing fewer movies, either because of pandemic-related production delays or because of a shift to streaming.

43 movies had been given a wide release in 2,000 theaters or more coming into this past weekend, according to Comscore, compared to 68 at the same point in 2019.

The summer was packed with blockbusters like “Maverick,” “Jurassic World: Dominion,” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru.” But there won’t be another franchise tentpole until October’s “Black Adam,” which will rely more on Dwayne Johnson’s star power. The next surefire hit is “Wakanda Forever” the first “Black Panther” earned $700 million in the US and over $1 billion worldwide.

Mooky Greidinger, the CEO of Cineworld, had told Insider in April during the CinemaCon exhibitor conference that the theatrical business “isn’t a blockbuster business,” noting that each movie has its target audience.

But as the industry aims to recover from the pandemic, it has been largely a blockbuster business. Original dramas and action movies have for the most part struggled. Aside from franchise blockbusters, horror is a reliable genre at the box office but major horror movies have been few and far between, and they typically don’t rake in the hundreds of millions of dollars that superhero movies do.

The months-long drought at the box office could spell trouble for movie theaters that were already devastated by the pandemic. In the face of fewer new releases, studios are releasing older movies: Disney will re-release “Avatar” in September, for instance, ahead of the long-awaited sequel in December.

The good news for theaters is that the major studios are embracing exclusive (albeit shorter) theatrical releases after experimenting with streaming during the pandemic. “Maverick,” which was released in May, is still going strong at the box office, showing that the right movie can have strong legs in theaters. And Warner Bros. Discovery has reiterated its commitment to theaters; CEO David Zaslav said during a recent earnings call that he doesn’t see the “economic case” for direct-to-streaming movies.

But while there’s a drought on the big screen, big-budget TV shows will be grabbing consumers’ attention in their homes.

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” prequel “House of the Dragon”; Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings” series “The Rings of Power”; and Disney+’s latest Marvel and “Star Wars” shows, “She-Hulk” and “Andor,” are all slated to debut within the next month.

This article was first published by Travis Clark on Business Insider Africa.

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