Theaters Rebound with New Blockbuster Hits

By Amit Jagwani  | 

Despite the possibility of ever-evolving Covid-19 variants, the world seems to be emerging from two years under the strain of a global pandemic into a more manageable way of life. It’s no secret that the entertainment industry weathered production disruptions and record-low ticket sales. In fact, according to the Motion Picture Association, films made only $21.3 billion in global sales in 2021, compared to the $42.3 billion grossed in 2019. Still, things are looking hopeful as new offerings hit box offices to favorable reviews and a whole lot of fans eager to get back to the movies. Here’s what you need to know.

Breaking Records
Less than a month after its release, The Batman took the prize for biggest box office hit of 2022. Starring Robert Pattinson as a moody incarnation of Gotham City’s favorite caped crusader and Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, this Warner Bros. offering scored a bigger opening weekend than producers expected. It grossed $134 million in North American theaters alone, above initial projections of $128.5 million. That earned it the distinction of being the second pandemic-era movie to bring in over $100 million during a single weekend debut, following Spider-Man: No Way Home. The latest mid-March figures reported a total of $300 million earned domestically and $600 million in worldwide sales, approaching pre-pandemic hit titles like 2017’s Wonder Woman that earned $821 million globally. This success may be due in part to the studio’s decision to release the title exclusively in movie theaters and keep it there for 45 days before sending it to streaming platform HBO Max—a plan Warner Bros. intends to replicate with upcoming offerings.

The only entertainment offering mighty enough to rival a superhero hit flick is, perhaps, a larger-than-life K-pop musical phenomenon. BTS, or Bangtan Boys, is a South Korean boy pop band that formed in 2010 and now enjoys such cosmic-level success that it was nearly impossible to get tickets to their first concert in three years. Still, 803 cinemas in the US and a total of 3,7111 theaters in 75 markets around the world were able to screen their live show, called “BTS Permission to Dance on Stage: Seoul,” the first performance from this group since Covid-19 forced them to cancel a 2020 worldwide tour. The single-night event scored $32.6 million in global box office sales—higher than many theaters earned from The Batman over the course of that full weekend.  “For a one-day gross to come in at this level, particularly the global number, is mind boggling and speaks to the power of a one-chance-only event to drive moviegoers to the cinema,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore.

Better than Expected
Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is a manga movie released by Crunchyroll and Funimation about a high-school student, a group of sorcerers, cursed spirits and other enchanting characters. As a prequel to Jujutsu Kaisen, a series created by artist Gege Akutami that’s beloved by anime fans around the world, it took in nearly $9 million on opening night from 2,340 US theaters. That followed a remarkable December debut in Japan, where the film earned $107 million and topped charts as the highest-earning release of 2021. Combined with additional international box office gains, this title is now the 10th highest-grossing manga movie of all time, an achievement that sets the stage for the next installment projected to hit theaters in 2023.

Paramount’s The Lost City likewise delighted studio execs by being one of the first non-superhero movies to recently score big with audiences. Women over age 35 can mainly be thanked for its commercial success—60 percent of ticket buyers were female and 47 percent were 35 or older. After not going to the movies during the pandemic, they came out to watch a star-studded cast including Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe and Brad Pitt in this action-comedy about a romance author who’s kidnapped by an eccentric billionaire. It grossed $11.5 million from 4,253 theaters on opening night and is expected to turn a tidy profit, despite the relatively hefty $70 million price tag associated with its making.

Franchises for the Win
Sony is celebrating its recent box-office smash, Uncharted, starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg in an action-packed adventure story about treasure hunters that’s based on one of the world’s most popular video games. The lively flick pulled in $106.4 million over the course of its opening weekend, serving as a sweet reminder that old-school theatrical releases are still lucrative, despite the recent hybrid streaming model on which so many studios now rely. Domestically, the movie was expected to bring in $30 million over its first four days but wound up scoring $51 million instead. Perhaps fans flocked to its premiere because the wait time was so long. After becoming the first major production to get fully shut down by Covid, Uncharted took two years to complete from pre-production to release. Sony Pictures CEO Tom Rothman declared it “a new hit movie franchise,” which bodes well for those eagerly awaiting the next installment.

Finally, Morbius (also from Sony) opened on the last day of March to a strong $5.7 million in Thursday previews earned from 3,583 theaters. The superhero thriller cost $75 million to make and pulled in $39.1 million over the course of its first theatrical weekend in the U.S. —yet another sign of how invincible this genre has become in terms of scoring big with moviegoers. Jared Leto stars in the titular role as a doctor with a rare blood disorder whose attempt at finding a cure turns him into a vampire. Additional characters seen in other Marvel movies help round out the cast. Here’s to many hours of happy viewing!

Amit Jagwani
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