Not Your Typical Drama

With the rise of streaming giants and in an era of cord cutting, many were questioning the longer-term sustainability of movie theaters. Throw in a global pandemic where no one should be closer than six feet, and we are seeing many technology-driven trends accelerate to new extremes and some old guard businesses continue to decline. Movie theaters are no exception.

In the spring and summer of this year, we saw many big theatrical releases get postponed and some films are being delayed even further. The new James Bond film; No Time to Die, Broadway’s hit Hamilton, Christopher Nolan’s newest thriller Tenet, and even classic remakes/sequels like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Disney’s Mulan have all been pushed back to later release dates, or launched on streaming platforms where available. Just last week, Disney also announced that the massively anticipated box office hit, Black Widow, part of the Marvel universe, would be pushed again, to spring 2021. Originally, the film was scheduled to be released this past May before it was moved to October 2020, and now the release has been pushed again. While this is disappointing for cinema goers – who doesn’t love some buttery popcorn in those comfy new recliner seats?! – it was the right thing to do given COVID is still a big part of our lives.

The trouble with these delays is that movie theater operators are getting crushed. Stocks like AMC, IMAX, & Cinemark were all hit very hard this week, down over 10% in some cases, after this news broke. Since theaters around the country reopened in August, sales have been lackluster at best. Tenet was supposed to bring enthusiasm back but has reaped just $36 million in ticket sales since the film debuted September 4th. Internationally, the film has thrived, raking in over $200million in ticket sales, which brings into question, has the rise of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime in the United States accelerated the trend away from cable TV and movies as we know them? There are plenty of smaller films moving along with release plans, however the big box office hits are where these theaters mostly make their money and it certainly seems American movie goers are opting for other forms of entertainment.

Once the dust settles and we are (hopefully!) presented with a vaccine or therapeutic in the near future, we would expect consumers to return to their normal ways, and people to once again line up overnight for the release of their favorite flicks.

The only problem seems to be whether Movie Theater operators will have enough cash flow to weather the storm. Stay tuned!

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