Nolte: Box Office Revenue Crashes 80 Percent to 40-Year Low

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The 2020 box office collapsed 80 percent in North America, which is right around a 40-year-low.

What a catastrophe for movie theaters.

What a gift to the movie studios.

And all because everyone freaked out over a virus with a survival rate of around 99.6 percent, and likely closer to 100 percent for the young people who make up a majority of moviegoers.

Oh, and that 40-year-low is not adjusting for inflation. That’s dollars-to-dollars, so this might very well be a hundred year low, or an all-time low:

Preliminary estimates show North American movie ticket sales for 2020 inching toward $2.3 billion. That would be the lowest showing since the early 1980s, if not the late 1970s, and that’s before adjusting for inflation. Box-office tracking didn’t begin in earnest until the early ’80s, so sourcing is complicated, although the Motion Picture Association shows domestic revenue hitting $4 billion for the first time in 1984.

Presently, domestic revenue for 2020 stands at around $2.2 billion, according to Comscore. That’s down roughly 80 percent from 2019.

Here’s my cynical spin on it…

I think this is GREAT news for the mammoth multinational corporations that produce movies… What I means is that I think they are thrilled by 2020’s turn of events.

This is just one man’s opinion but I believe the studios urged the Democrat governors of New York and California, and the Democrat mayors of cities like Chicago, to shutter movie theaters. With all the major theaters closed, the studios could then justify not releasing any new movies in any theater anywhere.

You see, this was all about the studios wanting to breaks the backs of the movie theaters.

Why would the studios want the backs of movie theaters broken, you ask?

Well, there’s a whole bunch of reasons, but let’s start with the fact that earlier this year, right in the middle of the pandemic (how about that?), a judge put an end to the 72-year-old decree that made it illegal for studios to own and operate their own theaters. So…

After starving the theaters into bankruptcy and near-bankruptcy by refusing to release any new product, I’m guessing these theaters, many of which are going bankrupt, might be purchased pretty cheap. What do you think?

And then there’s the long overdue death of the 90-day window between theatrical and home video release. When movie theaters held all the cards, they threatened to blacklist any movie that didn’t wait 90 days to pop up on home video. Studios hated that. A 90 day wait meant two promotional campaigns. Also meant they couldn’t experiment, see what might happen, what additional income streams might be generated by releasing a movie on pay-per-view on the same day it hit theaters.

Well, now the studios hold all the cards, especially now that the studios have a place to distribute their films — STREAMING!

Simply put, movie studios no longer need movie theaters.

Streaming is the endgame, the end-all-and-be-all of entertainment. That’s where the Big Bucks are, a golden goose made up of tens of millions of monthly subscribers delivering hundreds of millions of dollars every month. Month!

If you’re a Netflix or Disney, it’s a billion-plus dollars a month. A month!

But first you got to attract people to sign up. Then you have to keep them from canceling. That means product-product-product.

So here are your options…

If you drop your latest $500 million blockbuster into theaters, it’s going to be used goods by the time it reaches your streaming platform, and not do you a whole lot of good attracting those new subscribers, attracting new golden geese.

Sure, you might gross a billion dollars worldwide, but after expenses and doling out everyone’s slice, what are you left with? Maybe $200 million? Maybe less?

Ahh, but if you drop that $500 million blockbuster directly into your streaming platform, you immediately save $200 million because you don’t have to pay for a worldwide promotional campaign. On top of that, the theaters don’t take their 50 percent slice. Meanwhile, you’re attracting all kinds of new golden geese while offering the kind of content that holds on the subscribers you already have.

Bottom line…

The only people who lost this year were movie theater owners.

While the government was bankrupting movies theaters (and the rest of us) the studios were allowed to continue to make movies and TV shows, were allowed to remain in production and produce their product.

Funny how that worked out, eh?

And this was all done over a virus with a survival rate over over 99 percent.


Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.


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