Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Theatrical Release Output Stalls In January

The Home Entertainment world revolves around movies.   Sure, there are lots of other product options — Special Interest, Sports, KidVid, and on and on – but the big money is to be found in those gems mined from the theatrical market place.  

It is still early, but if the January release trends at the local multiplex don’t begin to pick up some steam as we move toward a winter thaw and into the glories of spring, 2013 is starting to show all the signs of gearing up to head off of a cliff.  

The question is: Are we at the end of a cycle and about to head in the other direction, at least in terms of new theatrical releases?

The last time the industry pulled a u-turn of this nature was during the summer of 2008, which, also corresponded to the financial markets heading off of a cliff of their own.   Not to say that there is a connection, but it does give one pause to think about what all of the little lemmings are lining up to do.

From the peak of 650 films opening theatrically to the bottom, roughly two-and-half years later, 140 films simply disappeared off of the annual theatrical release schedule.   Mainly little films, where producers and their partners concluded that it wasn’t worth the money to open the film theatrically, even with a digital projection option (not having to bear the cost of 35mm prints).

The current doldrums could have several — and very reasonable — explanations.  

First, there could be tardy reporting (or none at all) from some minor/indie theatrical releases that may have played a venue or two during the month (they could come late to the party and the numbers would be revised upward).   These films and their backers might not part of a reporting service … or the gross was so dismal that it would be a negative in announcing it.

Secondly, the holdover performance of the Christmas-season films could be a blocking factor in opening up screens.   Weather also has to be considered.  But these are usually factored in when release schedules are set months in advance. 

Whatever the reasons, January is currently tracking at a dismal annual output of just 420 films.   You would have to retreat all the way back to 2002 to match such levels.   

As we said, it is early yet and much could happen in the weeks and months ahead to bring the annual output projection back into the 580 to 620 range.   Stay tuned.

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