Movie theaters’ future uncertain as studios focus on streaming

Disney, Cinemark couldn’t reach a deal for showing a new movie

National /
Mar.March 08, 2021 12:15 PM
(Getty, iStock)

(Getty, iStock)

A lackluster box office performance of Walt Disney’s new movie is putting a cloud over the future of movie theaters.

Ticket sales for the Walt Disney Company’s highly-anticipated “Raya and the Last Dragon” totaled only $8.6 million over the weekend in the United States and Canada, the New York Times reported, citing data from Comscore.

The result is considered “soft,” even taking the pandemic into consideration, said David Gross, who runs movie consultancy firm Franchise Entertainment Research.

The film cost an estimated $150 million to produce and is now available in 2,045 theaters in North America, including some in New York City, where state officials allowed venues such as AMC theaters to resume operations at 25 percent capacity for the first time in a year.

But Cinemark, the No. 3 theater chain in the U.S., refused to book the movie, citing its simultaneous streaming debut on Disney+. Cinemark demanded a discount, but the negotiations apparently fell apart.

“We are making near-term booking decisions on a discrete, film-by-film basis, focusing on the long-term benefit of exhibitors, studios and moviegoers,” Cinemark said in a statement to the Times.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek pointed to viewers’ changing behaviors as one reason for the streaming debut; as people have been stuck at home, they’ve been able to watch new movies on demand. The company now plans to roll out new releases in different ways, with some offered to theaters exclusively, some made available on both at theaters and Disney+ with an additional fee, and others showing only on Disney+ with no additional fee.

For the new “Tom & Jerry” movie, Cinemark and other theaters struck a deal with Warner and are playing in theaters even though the film also debuted on HBO Max .

[NYT] — Akiko Matsuda





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