Barbie wins summer box office, Taylor Swift may not save fall

A scene from “Barbie”.

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Hollywood relied heavily on sequels to blockbuster franchises to revitalize its summer movie business, but it was fresh films like “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” that brought the industry $4 billion in sales, up 19% from the previous year .

The summer movie season begins on the first Friday in May and runs through Labor Day weekend. On average, it accounts for 40% of all movie ticket sales for the year. Typically, studios fill this part of the release calendar with superhero extravaganzas, franchise sequels and action-packed films to capture audiences’ attention during the hottest months of the year.

However, autumn looks bleak.

Cinemas are already struggling with less content than in previous years. Missing titles like Dune: Part Two will exacerbate this problem. The industry received good news in the form of Taylor Swift’s concert film “Eras Tour,” which hits theaters in October. Expectations for the debut are high, with many box office analysts expecting an opening of $100 million. However, Swift won’t be able to balance the scales on her own.

Hollywood is still recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic and has entered a chaotic recovery period. As studios desperately try to lure moviegoers away from their couches, they are also battling double-strikes that limit their ability to market their films.

Top Summer Movies 2023, Domestic

  • Warner Bros.’ “Barbie” – $612.3 million
  • Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” – $381.2 million
  • Disney’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” – $358.9 million
  • Universal’s “Oppenheimer” – $310.6 million
  • Disney’s The Little Mermaid – $298.1 million

Source: Comscore

Summer joy

Autumn leaves

Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson star in Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Dune.

Warner Bros.

The summer season also showed a growing desire among audiences for tickets to premium format screenings, said Shawn Robbins, principal analyst at He said the industry could learn a lot from showings of titles like “Barbie,” particularly the appeal of civic-minded community experiences in movie theaters.

“The caveat, however, is that the release calendar is somewhat thinned out due to the ongoing strikes,” he said. “While this could represent an opportunity for certain studios and films, it is a headwind that nonetheless creates increasing challenges for theater owners and audiences who do not want to see further delays to the films they are looking forward to.”

In the longer term, it will become a growing concern next year as productions continue to be suspended, Robbins added.

It comes at a time when the theater industry is rebounding, with total box office revenues from January through Labor Day up about 25% compared to last year.

However, it’s still down 13% from 2019 levels, and the fall movie season appears to be tepid, even with Swift’s concert film on the calendar.

Movies like “Dune: Part Two” from Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment, as well as Sony’s “Kraven the Hunter” and the sequel “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” have already left for 2024 as writers and actors strike against the studios.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of Universal Studios and CNBC. Barbie wins summer box office, Taylor Swift may not save fall

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