Sunday, April 14, 2024

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The film industry is counting on Taylor Swift to help alleviate the financial damage caused by the current box office strike.


Taylor Swift, a cultural icon, filled stadiums on her concert tour, sparked a resurgence of interest in voting by encouraging her fans to fulfill their civic duty, and drew in young female viewers to professional football games to watch her cheer from the sidelines.

In her upcoming venture, Ms. Swift is positioned to boost a different sector of the American economy: the movie box office, which is still struggling to bounce back from the effects of the pandemic and Hollywood labor disputes.

On October 13, the movie theaters will showcase Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour. This will also be shown in Philippine cinemas on the same day. It will determine if “alternative content”, like concert films, can attract viewers to theaters and provide stability for the industry, which is dependent on the release schedule of movies.

According to industry experts and executives at movie studios, Ms. Swift’s movie has the potential to generate $120 million during its first weekend of release. This could result in a significant boost in ticket sales for major theater chains such as AMC Theaters and Cineworld.

The highly praised impact of Taylor Swift and the release of a concert film by fellow pop icon Beyoncé may not fully compensate for the gaps caused by strikes in Hollywood.

Labor disputes have interrupted the resurgence of the film industry, halting the progress made from successful summer releases like Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Barbie, and Oppenheimer. This comes at a critical time, as the holiday season typically brings in about a quarter of the industry’s yearly box office earnings, as reported by research firm Comscore.

Shawn Robbins, senior analyst at Box Office Pro, believes that the releases of Swift and Beyoncé will help to fill some of the gaps. However, it may be unrealistic to expect these titles to fully compensate for the loss of revenue from Dune: Part 2, Kraven the Hunter, and the upcoming Ghostbusters film.

The release dates for all three of those highly anticipated movies have been pushed back to 2024 due to the ongoing strike by the SAG-AFTRA actors union, which prevents the stars from promoting their films.

Following the delay of these releases, movie theater managers hurried to find alternatives to fill their screens, including concert films from Swift and Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour, known as “alternative content” in the industry.

BLOCKBUSTER SALES

Ticket sales for Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour, The Eras Tour, are on track to match those of popular blockbusters like Star Wars or Marvel films. According to box office experts, the accompanying documentary is projected to earn anywhere from $150 million to $225 million during its run in the United States and Canada. Beyoncé’s upcoming film, Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé, set to release in December, is also expected to bring in $75 million in ticket sales.

Rolando Rodriguez, the chairman of the National Association of Theater Owners, stated that alternative programming has been a topic of discussion for a considerable amount of time. He mentioned that theater owners have already presented different types of entertainment, such as opera. However, he acknowledged that Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour has brought it to a whole new level, and Beyoncé’s upcoming tour will elevate it even further.

According to Brock Bagby, the executive vice-president of B&B Theaters, the release of Ms. Swift’s film was an incredibly unexpected and exciting event. B&B Theaters, which is the fifth-largest theater chain in the US with 529 screens across 14 states, made this announcement.

Movie theaters are working to make the movie, which will be shown on Thursdays through Sundays, into a special occasion. B&B Theaters will be laying out pink carpets, arranging for photo booths, and encouraging viewers to dance during the showing.

However, Swift and Queen Bey have their limitations.

Despite a strong November line-up with The Marvels, Trolls Band Together, and a Hunger Games prequel, the Christmas slate looks thin compared to recent years. Two studio executives noted the lack of an obvious December blockbuster on the scale of Avatar: The Way of Water, which was the highest-grossing film of 2022, or the 2021 hit Spider-Man: No Way Home.

At the beginning of the year, Bruce Nash, who tracks box office sales, had predicted that domestic ticket sales in 2023 would reach $10 billion.

“The strike put an end to that,” Mr. Nash said. He has slashed his 2023 forecast to roughly $9.6 billion, 32% higher than last year but 16% below the pre-pandemic proceeds of $11.4 billion in 2019.

A persistent worry among those who own theaters is that the strike by SAG-AFTRA could interfere with the release of films next year. Even if large film studios and actors come to a resolution by Thanksgiving, it is expected that productions will not resume until January due to the holiday season. This could limit the number of new movies entering theaters in the following year.

According to B. Riley analyst Eric Wold, there is a significant amount of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming film lineup. He also noted that it will be difficult to navigate the busy schedules of actors and may pose a challenge. As a result, there is a higher likelihood that projects originally planned for release next year may need to be rescheduled.

On Monday last week, negotiators for Hollywood actors who were on strike met with representatives from major studios, television networks, and streaming services to discuss their contracts. This was the first time the two parties had returned to negotiations since mid-July.

The negotiations took place eight days following the producers reaching a different contract agreement with writers in Hollywood, who started their own strike on May 2, approximately 10 weeks prior to the actors.

Wedbush Securities analysts said they believe near-term damage from the strikes will be limited if actors reach a deal this month, and the impact on the 2024 release slate in that case “will likely be mild.” — Reuters