Why are cinemas showing so few movies now?

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CNN Business

One major thing will be missing from theaters this fall: movies.

With “Bullet Train,” Sony’s actioner starring Brad Pitt, hitting theaters next week, the list of movies for August, September and October is disappearing. It’s hard to find blockbusters in the mix. In fact, there aren’t many movies that could top $50 million at the box office until Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever , which doesn’t debut until Nov. 11.

The shortage of films comes in a year that already lags well behind pre-pandemic Hollywood output. So far in 2019, there have been 63 national releases in North America, according to Comscore (SCOR). This year their number is 39 – 38% decrease compared to three years ago.

Despite the lag, 2022 largely held its own. Ticket sales are roughly 30% behind pre-pandemic levels in 2019, which is pretty good considering the lack of movies hitting theaters.

So where are all the movies? There’s still a lot being produced and released, but a lot of it is either headed directly to streaming or delayed because the industry is experiencing many of the same problems as the rest of the economy.

In short, Hollywood has a supply chain problem.

“A number of ongoing issues related to supply chain backups and the production pipeline have impacted various films,” Sean Robbins, principal analyst at Boxoffice.com, told CNN Business. “It’s important to remember that studios map out their go-to-market strategies six months to a year or more in most cases.”

While summer movies have been a “tremendous success” in theaters, the industry is “still catching up with audience sentiment and expectations for new content on the big screen,” Robbins added.

Think back to two years ago, when studios were delaying movies almost every day while the coronavirus pandemic upended Hollywood. The reverberations of these decisions are still felt today.

There’s another reason why theaters may lack the normal amount of movies: streaming.

As streaming becomes a bigger focus for media companies, studios find themselves now supplying both theaters and streamers. Some movies that seem perfect for theaters, like 20th Century Studios’ “Prey,” the next installment in the “Predator” series, are headed exclusively to streaming instead of the big screen. In fact, many of the 20th Century Studio and Searchlight Pictures movies are now just going to Hulu.

“It’s no secret that studios are looking to diversify distribution strategies, while streamers are looking to expand content offerings and compete among subscriber bases,” Robbins said.

The direct streaming strategy makes sense for many movies. And “a big-budget movie sent straight to streaming might have a low box office ceiling to begin with,” Robbins added. Otherwise, there would be “little sense in interrupting this lucrative revenue stream.”

While there may not be many big blockbusters in theaters for the next few weeks, there will still be movies to watch.

There are smaller films like A24’s horror film “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” which opens on August 5, the spin-off “Don’t Worry Darling” starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles on September 23, the romantic comedy “Bros.” on September 30, “Halloween Ends,” the next and potentially final film in the Halloween series, on October 14 and “Black Adam,” a superhero movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, on October 21.

Each of these films can surprise and find an audience.

There will even be blockbusters from the past making their way to theaters with IMAX re-releases of “ET: The Extra Terrestrial” in August and “Jaws” in September.

Also, with the lack of movies hitting theaters, this summer’s hits like “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru” could continue to rack up ticket sales.

So there are a few good things coming to theaters in the next few months. However, that doesn’t change the fact that “Wakanda Forever,” Hollywood’s next big blockbuster hope, feels forever away.

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