Magazine article Variety

Sequels, Spinoffs Poised to Rescue Lagging Box Office

Magazine article Variety

Sequels, Spinoffs Poised to Rescue Lagging Box Office

Article excerpt

IN THE summer, as temperatures rise and schools go on break, Hollywood likes to stick to a well-worn formula: Pack the multiplexes with franchises, spinoffs, reboots and remakes. This coming season will be no different - with hopes that the pay off at the box office will help reverse the current turndown in ticket sales.

"The box office is going to rise and fall on the slate of sequels like it has for countless summers," says Jeff Bock, an analyst at Exhibitor Relations. "If the summer does better, it will be because studios made sequels that people actually wanted to see."

That formula worked last summer, as tentpoles like "Avengers: Infinity War," "Mission: Impossible - Fallout" and "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" propelled ticket sales and seemingly cured franchise fatigue.

Box office prognosticators believe that this summer's lineup, filled with installments in the "Avengers,""Toy Story,""Spider-Man," and "X-Men" sagas, as well as live-action remakes of "The Lion King" and "Aladdin," will provide enough firepower to make cash registers ring even more loudly than last season's $4.4 billion haul. This summer won't just be a testament to the enduring power of these franchises and familiar stories; it will also show the dominance of Walt Disney Studios. Thanks to its acqui- sition of Pixar, LucasFilm and Marvel, the entertainment giant controls many of the most storied film brands. Disney's film slate nearly doubled after the completion of its $71 billion merger with 21st Century Fox, with popular franchises like "X-Men," "Avatar" and "Deadpool" finding a new home in the Magic Kingdom.

That tonnage gives Disney a great deal of influence. The studio can demand and receive a larger cut of ticket sales than its competitors. However, Eric Wold, an analyst with B. Riley believes that's a trade many theater chains are willing to make in order to play these films.

"Exhibitors would much rather share 60% of ticket sales with Disney for a film that does $1 billion than share 50% of revenues with another studio on a film that does $100 million," Wold says.

For many theater owners, this year's crop of summer blockbuster-hopefuls can't come soon enough. Even with spring hits like Disney's "Captain Marvel" and Universal's "Us," domestic ticket sales are down almost 17% year on year through the third week in April. Hollywood will need to rely on more than just superheroes and scares to keep theaters filled to capacity and ensure 2019 hits another benchmark.

"We knew it would be down, but it will start to turn around in May," says Jim Orr, Universal's president of domestic distribution. "I'm bullish we will have another great year."

"Avengers: Endgame" should kick popcorn season into overdrive. Marvel's epic superhero mashup, a sequel to last year's behemoth "Avengers: Infinity War," is expected to shatter records when it opens at the end of April. …

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