“Thor: Love and Thunder” hopes to revive the theater industry.


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New York
CNN Business

Movie theaters were not available two years ago. The pandemic caused by the fluMany in Hollywood wondered if going out to the movies would disappear.

The reports of theaters closing down are exaggerated halfway through 2022. Audiences have returned to the cineplex for hits like “Top Gun: Maverick,” The Batman” and “The Rise of Gru: Minions” and there’s hope in Hollywood that these films are the rule, not the exception, for the rest of the year.

Theaters should get hit with another bolt of lightning this weekend when “Thor: Love and Thunder,” Marvel’s latest film, hits cineplexes. It stars Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth as the God(s), of Thunder. The film is expected to debut in North America at $150 million. On Thursday night, the film grossed $29 million.

“Theaters have seen a renaissance of sorts this year with traditional blockbusters — sequels, superheroes and slasher pics — leading the box office brigade,” Jeff Bock, senior analyst at entertainment research firm Exhibitor Relations, told CNN Business.

The industry is not yet fully back despite all the optimism. Streaming continues to be a powerful option, however inflation is squeezing income and the second quarter of 2022 has a shortage of blockbusters.

Comscore reports that domestic box offices have made almost $4 billion in the first quarter of this year.

. That total is up 243% over the same time last year, but 33% lower than 2019’s pre-pandemic levels.

This year’s box office numbers present a “Choose Your Own Adventure” of sorts. Although it might be considered disappointing, 33% is still a good result considering the previous two years.

A great example of this dichotomy is “Maverick: Top Gun.”

The biggest film of the year so far, in which Tom Cruise reprises one of his most iconic roles from the 1986 classic, has brought in $575 million in North America — or roughly 15% of this year’s entire domestic box office.

That’s excellent news for the industry, but should one movie represent that much of the domestic box office? Bock called “Maverick” a “box office anomaly that happens maybe once every decade.”

There have been other hits, of course, big moneymakers from franchises such as Marvel’s “Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness” and Universal’s “Jurassic World: Dominion” as well as unexpected upstarts like A24’s trippy “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” which has made close to $70 million domestically despite being a smaller, low-budget film.

Although the 2022 box-office has seen some improvement, there is still much to be done before it reaches normalcy. But is it possible?

“As we move forward, box office outlooks begin to focus minimally on pandemic concerns and mostly toward the strength of schedule again,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, told CNN Business.

He noted that summer films like “Thor,” Jordan Peele’s next horror film “Nope,” and the Brad Pitt led “Bullet Train” all have the potential to “keep a healthy momentum rolling.” However, Robbins admitted there isn’t “a great deal of built-in audience content slated to open from August to mid-October.”

Original films have struggled in recent years to reach a significant audience. If films like the rom-com “Bros,” the mysterious “Don’t Worry Darling” starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles and others are able to find an audience it could bridge a gap to the holiday season.

2022’s year ends with sequels of two of the most successful films of all-time if there is enough foot traffic.

The much anticipated “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is set for November. The latter is December’s “The Way of Water: Avatar,” the first film from director James Cameron since the original “Avatar” in 2009, which has totaled $2.8 billion worldwide.

Can “Wakanda Forever” match the box office of the original without Chadwick Boseman, who played the title character and In 2020, a tragic death occurred? And will “Avatar” still find an audience 13 years later? The answers are unclear, but bet against Marvel Studios and Cameron — the director of many blockbusters like “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and “Titanic” — at your own peril.

Bock, the analyst from Exhibitor Relations, believes blockbusters will continue to “breakaway at the box office,” and that this year “overall will likely be considered a major success considering the titles left on the release calendar.”


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