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‘Holiday season blues’: Cinemas pivot to concert films, superheroes and nostalgia

Don't be confused, this is what we're now calling a ‘concert film’ as Beyonce follows Taylor Swift, The Eras Tour concert film to keep revenue flowing in cinemas.

Don't be confused, this is what we're now calling a ‘concert film’ as Beyonce follows Taylor Swift, The Eras Tour concert film to keep revenue flowing in cinemas. Photo: Getty

As the US actors’ strike becomes the longest walk-off in their history, cinema chains are bracing for “holiday season blues” amid delays with blockbuster releases over the Christmas season.

Polar opposites the Taylor Swift Eras Tour concert film, Paw Patrol and Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon have been major box office drawcards in October (now steadily sliding), but what films will fill the coffers over the next 12 weeks, and what’s on hiatus?

“The lack of any resolution in labour conflicts is bad news for movie theatres,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at US-based Boxoffice Pro told Variety this week, forecasting “holiday season blues”.

“The longer the strike goes on, we approach that worst-case scenario of impact … some movies don’t need actors to promote them, but smaller releases could benefit from having stars on the press circuit.”

Last weekend alone, the Australian box office was $8.77 million for the top 10 movies, accounting for 81.5 per cent of the total box office, according to the latest data from Hoyts.

For that to remain on track for the fourth quarter up to Christmas, we’re going to need some big movies, and quickly.

Hoyts director of sales, marketing and content Stephanie Mills tells The New Daily “there is no shortage of epic content for the big screen”.

“This holiday season promises a cinematic extravaganza, offering a diverse selection of films that are sure to captivate audiences.”

Cinema chains were hoping Dune 2, Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Kraven the Hunter were in post-production.

Not even close, with release dates now in March for Timothee Chalamet’s Dune and the anticipated return of Bill Murray in Ghostbusters, while we have to wait months for Russell Crowe’s Kraven until August.

But we’ll be fine. It’s not all bad news.

There’s the rise of the so-called concert film thanks to Taylor Swift Eras Tour and Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé on December 1, there’s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Ridley Scott’s epic Napoleon and The Marvels.

And while media analysts say these unconventional movie experiences won’t be enough to “offset” the delayed blockbusters and attract traditional audiences – plus we won’t have an Avatar or Star Wars sequel  to bring in families – there might just be “enough left on the calendar to keep multiplexes bustling from Thanksgiving to New Year’s”.

“It’s a decent mix of superheroes, young adult content and nostalgia to drive audiences,” said LA-based B. Riley Financial senior media analyst Eric Wold.

Let’s take a look.

Concert films

The rise of the concert film isn’t everyone’s immediate go-to cinema experience, but it has filled the void.

It scored the No.1 slot on opening weekend in the US, generating $US31 million from 3855 venues, reported Variety, was the only “concert film” in history to repeat No.1 for two consecutive weekends, and is the first to reach $US100 million at the domestic box office.

“After only five days of showtimes, the AMC Theatres-distributed film has generated $131 million to date … although ticket sales dropped by a sizeable 66 per cent from its debut … The Eras Tour is already a massive commercial winner,” it wrote.

“It was self-produced by Swift, cost around $US15 million, and required a smaller marketing spend than the average blockbuster of this scale.”

In Australia, its cumulative Australian box office is $5.95 million to date.

Off the back of its success, it may “ignite a trend” for cinemas.

“Even though few musical acts operate in the sphere of Swift and Queen Bey, analysts believe these movies could ignite a trend …  Swift’s Eras Tour is minting money, with $180 million worldwide and counting,” Variety stated.

Pre-sale tickets for AMC, Regal and Cinemark forecast box office receipts on opening weekend for Beyonce’s concert film of about $US20 million.

Let’s hope the actors can get back out and promote their pre-Christmas blockbusters, just like Aquaman‘s Jason Momoa (centre) did in 2018. Photo: Getty

Superheroes and nostalgia

There are several films that are “sticking to their original release strategy despite the unpredictability” of the impasse between SAF-AFTRA and the major studios.

Despite a bid by Hollywood royalty including George Clooney to come up with a solution – offering the union an extra $US150 million ($237 million) over three years as a proposal to end the strike – there is no end in sight for actors to attend red-carpet promos on behalf of the studios.

November is slim pickings, with reliance on The Hunger Games prequel The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes – keep in mind there’s no Jennifer Lawrence playing Katniss Everdeen – and The Marvels to appeal to the teenage superhero in us all.

And then there’s the crucial month of December.

Chalamet’s fantastical adventure Wonka, another iteration born from Roald Dahl’s famous fictional chocolatier in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, will definitely appeal to a broader festive season audience and is released on December 14.

Three days before Christmas, there’s Steven Spielberg’s nostalgic adaptation of the Broadway musical, The Color Purple, which could hit the right notes with young and old alike.

When Aquaman was released just before Christmas in 2018, star Jason Momoa was on standby to do promotions galore around the world.

It grossed $US1.15 billion worldwide and made it the highest-grossing film in the DC cinematic universe at the time.

Box office watchers are optimistic that, unlike during COVID-19, there is an end in sight, stated Variety, suggesting that maybe Momoa might hit the red carpet just in time.

Mills says the all-important Boxing Day this year is shaping up just fine, with the underwater superhero film, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, and “heartwarming tales” including Disney’s Wish, and Migration, featuring the voices of Awkwafina, Elizabeth Banks and Danny DeVito.

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