Summer is supposed to be the gold standard for the movie business. Big, booming blockbusters and tender love stories fill up the silver screen, giving people a cool place to retreat to in the dog days of summer.
It’s been that way since movie theaters were some of the first public buildings to have air conditioning. And, once that caught on, they had a captive audience for decades. Now, though, some of the summer sales figures coming in are signaling that it may not be that way for much longer.
In a recent Variety Magazine article, AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron was interviewed about the downtrend in summer movie viewing. How bad is it? Well, according to the article, AMC lost about 27 percent of its value in just a few hours, because the earnings report was not going to be good. Not at all.
Box offices across the country are hurting, and AMC, as one of the national powerhouses, is taking the brunt of that loss. How bad is it? Well, here’s what Aron had to say: “To say we were disappointed would be an understatement… The quarter was simply a bust.”
Summer movie season was “a bust.” This is the season of massive action movies that, in decades past, may as well have been the companies printing money. Hundreds of millions crossed the turnstiles, year after year after year. But things are changing. Fewer people are seeing movies in theaters, preferring to wait a few months to stream them at home. And that change is happening with severe abruptness. Last year, Suicide Squad had a $134 million opening weekend. This year, The Dark Tower brought in about $20 million.
And this summer has had a string of bad movies that didn’t help much. From Baywatch to King Arthur, the supposedly can’t-miss flicks are keeping people away from the theater rather than drawing them in. And most people in the industry expect things to get worse over the next few months.
There are a few Usual Suspects being blamed for the lag. Some say poor performing sequels are to blame. Up against that line of thinking, though, is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which was a huge success. Others say Hollywood is just out of ideas.
The real issue – and studios will have to face it sooner rather than later – is streaming media and the popularity of some pay cable shows. Compare the watercooler talk and public excitement about the new season of Game of Thrones to any movie that came out this summer. The head to head popularity count isn’t good. Movie makers are going to have to figure out what to do about these consumer trends if they hope to get people back into theaters.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.