Release calendar changes have impacted end-of-year predictions and recovery estimates in UK/Ireland, potentially giving James Bond his most important mission yet: boosting box office recovery.
The latest round of release calendar changes has left July largely bereft of new titles. This is having a major impact on international markets already open or preparing to do so. In UK/Ireland, the move of Warner Bros’ TENET and Disney’s MULAN to August 14 and 21, respectively, resulted in major exhibition chains Cineworld and Vue delaying their re-opening plans to July 31. The various shifts are immediately having an impact on end-of-year predictions and estimates of when the market might start to achieve goals on Gower Street’s Blueprint To Recovery.
Gower Street currently estimates that the UK/Ireland box office could achieve an end-of-year result of £665 million in 2020, roughly half of 2019’s total. This relies on a solid Q4 which, despite capacity restrictions, we estimate could deliver approximately £317 million (19% behind Q4 2019). With much of July’s potential likely lost, Q3 is estimated to come in 75% behind Q3 2019.
At the end of May, Gower Street published an article on our website outlining where we expected to see key UK/Ireland box office recovery markers occurring. Written by Head of EMEA Ellie Bush, as part of a series of articles from our film team focused on the major markets currently offered in our flagship FORECAST theatrical market simulation service, it laid out how our team of analysts had been working to ensure our predictive market totals accounted for many factors in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. These included: capacity restrictions; economic pressures; audience willingness to return; differing re-opening plans per exhibitor; different states/regions re-opening at different times; lack of product; and more.
There are four box office markers on our 5-stage Blueprint To Recovery (Stage 1 is hit when 80% of theaters by previous-year market share are re-open). Stage 2 requires a single day to achieve an equivalent box office to the lowest grossing day from the previous two years (2018-2019). For UK/Ireland we identify that as a day gross of £885k. Gower Street had originally predicted this would occur July 17, at that time the opening of TENET, but the subsequent loss of major releases from July has delayed this. It currently stands on the Friday of TENET’s new release week, August 14.
Stage 3 (a week equivalent to the lowest grossing week from the previous two years: approximately £11.7m) has similarly been pushed back by the loss of titles, which, in turn, led Cineworld and Vue to announce a delay in re-opening their circuits. Stage 3 is now estimated to be hit the week commencing August 21 with MULAN joining TENET in the market. UK/Ireland last achieved this level of box office in the week-commencing March 6, which saw ONWARD and MILITARY WIVES open. The UK Government called for the closure of all cinemas on Friday March 20, although many had already closed their doors.
We have already seen a number of international markets, most recently France (June 27), achieve their own Stage 2 markers. Last week saw Japan become the first global market to achieve the Stage 3 marker. Those markets that have achieved either marker have done so either with a majority of movie theaters back in play; a big-title driver (DOLITTLE fuelled Japan’s Stage 3 achievement); or a combination of the two.
The Stage 4 marker requires weekly box office to hit a level equivalent to median-week levels of the past two years: approximately £24.7 million. This will require an easing of capacity restrictions. Gower Street’s film team are currently working towards a hopeful easing of restrictions by Q4. As in our previous predictions, Stage 4 is expected to be achievable in the week-commencing November 13, with the opening of James Bond film NO TIME TO DIE.
The James Bond franchise is always a key box office driver in the UK. The previous two Daniel Craig Bond titles, 2012’s SKYFALL and 2015’s SPECTRE, currently rank as the second and third highest grossing films of all-time at the UK/Ireland box office. SKYFALL became the first film ever to gross over £100 million. Despite capacity restrictions, NO TIME TO DIE is anticipated to have the potential to near single-handedly achieve the Stage 4 marker. As a result, we also predict the Stage 5 marker (a box office week equivalent to the top quartile from the past two years – £29.4m) to be achieved in the same box office week. This would indicate true recovery.
Of course, as we have once again seen in the past week, much can change. Predictive analytics is always subject to a changing market and the current situation is arguably more fluid than most. The potential dates for both the Stage 2 and 3 markers have been impacted by recent release calendar changes, and more will likely come.