It’ll be a while before movie theaters get another opening weekend like ‘The Batman,’ so big chains are trying to make the most of it.
AMC Theaters raised some eyebrows when CEO Adam Aron announced Thursday that America’s largest theater chain would introduce dynamic pricing at its locations by slightly increasing the price of Warner Bros. opening week tickets. “The Batman.”
But analysts and studio insiders say AMC is continuing a trend that was already in motion with the release of Sony’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home” three months ago, and could be a key tool for theaters. as they continue to dig out of the financial hole created by the COVID-19 pandemic in a market where only franchise tents drive ticket sales.
“Cinemas have always cut matinee shows, experimented with $5 Tuesdays, and premium formats have proven that people will pay more to see the movie the first two weeks,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. “It’s long overdue and it’s a faster road to health than sticking to the old flat pricing model.”
Even with DC, Marvel and other big tentpoles like Universal’s “Jurassic World: Dominion” coming this year, the slow start to 2022 has shown that the dry spells between big event movies are getting longer and shorter. deepen. While some February films like Lionsgate’s “Dog” and Paramount’s “Scream” enjoyed low-budget profitability, they failed to bring substantial attendance to theaters. Annual domestic revenue for the year still remains 40% below the pace of 2019 and has yet to hit $1 billion despite the $134 million opening weekend for ‘The Batman’ .
While executives at major theater chains may publicly attribute this to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, the question of whether older moviegoers and the mature films they care about will ever return to mainstream theaters looms large. in the industry, with the topic slated for a panel at next month’s CinemaCon movie industry convention.
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With that in mind, Aron’s announcement during his company’s earnings call last week that opening weekend tickets for ‘The Batman’ would cost an extra dollar or two is not too surprising. Box office sources noted over the weekend that similar dynamic pricing was attempted during the opening weekend of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” by other national chains Regal and Cinemark.
If last year’s trend of big opening weekends for blockbusters followed by long stretches of much slower weekends continues, then theaters will have to look for every possible way to squeeze in all the extra cash that ‘they can withdraw feast times to get through the famine. .
“That’s exactly where the market is now. Beyond superhero movies, the movies that have come out have been more missed than successful,” said exhibitor relations analyst Jeff Bock. there’s less confidence than ever that small films between big blockbuster releases can generate as much revenue as before, so theaters need to make the most of concession sales and whatever 40-50% of the gate they keep from movies like “The Batman”.
Young audiences have already shown that price is not an issue for a film they want to see as soon as they come out. This weekend, 30% of domestic ticket sales for “The Batman” came from Imax and other premium formats. If the movie is big enough, die-hard fans will pay the extra money to see it on the biggest screen possible before social media spoils all the plot twists for them.
And while not all regional chains and independent theaters will have premium screens to draw the opening weekend crowd, Pachter expects they too will soon adopt dynamic pricing. “With the exhibition window shrinking to 45 days, theater owners all need to maximize their profits. People will pay more to see a movie opening weekend, and I think everyone will emulate that” , did he declare.
What’s less clear is whether dynamic pricing will work the other way around, with theaters expanding discount offers beyond the traditional mid-week periods for films in the later stages of their theatrical run or for films aimed at older or family audiences who may be more difficult to attract.
“Right now inflation is driving up the prices of so many things, but we haven’t released a family movie yet to show us if it’s affecting parents’ willingness to go out to the movies even with the drop in COVID infections. “Bock said. . “If ‘Sonic the Hedgehog 2’ doesn’t do as well as the first ‘Sonic’ next month, do we see dynamic pricing changing ticket costs to appeal to families on a budget? There’s still a lot of experimentation that could occur.