Theatres look to Bond and Black Widow to spark 2021 moviegoing

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Movie theater operators, after a 12 months of dismal ticket gross sales throughout the pandemic, are hoping a lineup of superheroes, fighter pilots and cinema’s most well-known spy will assist them stage a comeback in 2021.

Roughly two-thirds of theaters stay shut within the United States and Canada, usually the world’s largest movie market. Box workplace receipts in 2020 plunged 80% from a 12 months earlier.

But theatre house owners and business analysts see motive for optimism as COVID-19 vaccines roll out and James Bond, Black Widow and different heroes star in new blockbusters set to start lighting up screens within the spring.

“I think we’ll see a lot of improvements throughout 2021, but I do think it will take some time to get there,” mentioned Shawn Robbins, chief analyst with BoxOfficePro.com. “It won’t be an overnight return to normal by any means.”

The timing of any rebound is unsure, as debut dates might change. Hollywood executives have repeatedly shuffled their schedules as they struggle to decide when the pandemic will fade. Initial pleasure over vaccines has been tempered by sluggish distribution. And audiences could have extra decisions to stream at residence.

Currently, studios plan to ship theaters a heavy lineup of big-budget motion pictures that have been yanked from the 2020 schedule.

James Bond thriller No Time to Die, from MGM and Comcast Corp’s Universal Pictures, is scheduled for April. Black Widow, from Walt Disney Co’s Marvel Studios, and Universal’s new Fast & Furious installment are set for May.

Anticipated summer time motion pictures embrace Top Gun: Maverick from ViacomCBS Inc’s Paramount Pictures, Universal’s animated Minions: The Rise of Gru, and Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

The theatre enterprise was buoyed by the turnout for Wonder Woman 1984 over the Christmas vacation. While far wanting a standard motion film debut, ticket gross sales for the film from AT&T Inc’s Warner Bros. got here in increased than anticipated, though US audiences might stream the movie at residence on HBO Max.

Warner Bros. plans the identical dual-release technique in 2021 for 17 movies, together with a Dune remake and Godzilla vs. Kong.

The efficiency of Wonder Woman 1984 demonstrated an urge for food for the massive display screen, B. Riley analyst Eric Wold mentioned in a analysis observe.

“This helps support the thesis that when consumers are allowed back to theaters with attractive content, they will once again become moviegoers,” mentioned Wold, who follows main chains together with AMC Entertainment and Cinemark.

B&B Theatres, which operates in 9 states, bought out a few of its Wonder Woman 1984 showtimes on Christmas Day, executives mentioned. But they provided solely 25% to 50% of seats, relying on the state, to guarantee social distancing.

“We’re seeing week after week our attendance go up,” mentioned government vp Bobbie Bagby Ford. But she added she didn’t count on the business to hit “any semblance of normal” till vaccinations broaden and attendance limits might be lifted.

“It’s probably going to be the holidays of 2021 before I see us back to full swing,” she mentioned.

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