LATEST RESEARCH SHOWS CINEMA AUDIENCES EAGER TO RETURN
FILM INDUSTRY NEWS WEEKLY DIGEST, MONDAY FEBRUARY 22
Moviegoers’ Confidence To Return To Cinemas During Covid Hits Record Level – NRG Poll
Even though the domestic box office remains in a funk due to the pandemic, (US) moviegoers’ confidence has hit a record high near 50%, according to recent data by NRG. The recent upbeat attitude to return to the cinema outpaced poll results from the fall, which was the last time confidence was at a notable level during Covid.
Prior to the September-November period, the last time the confidence level of moviegoers was “very or somewhat comfortable” with being in theaters was on March 15-16, right before major exhibition closed down due to Covid-19 safety guidelines. According to exhibition reports, 47% of 5,900 U.S./Canada movie theaters are open. States that are the most open include Mississippi and Utah (both 80%), Arizona (77%), Alabama (70%) and Georgia (70%).
NRG reports that the comfort to return to the cinema is highest among teens (60%) and males under 25 (62%), with women over 25 being the least comfortable to go back to the movies (40%). Males over 25 have a confidence level of 49% with females under 25 at 50%. Overall, 82% of moviegoers say they expect to be “very or somewhat comfortable” once the vaccine is broadly available. That’s the highest number NRG has seen in that measure to date. Even after the vaccine is widely accessible, moviegoers do still want safety measures in place (i.e. masking, distancing, etc).
Once the vaccine is in full effect, all demos jump in confidence regarding their anticipation to return to the cinema with males under 25 (83%), males over 25 (84%), females under 25 (85%) and females over 25 (77%). There also continues to be a political divide with conservatives being more comfortable returning than liberals per the analytics corp.
During the week of Feb. 8, 53% of NRG respondents said that they feel movie theaters are “very or somewhat safe”, which is also the highest perception the org has seen since mid-November, a point ahead of indoor dining (52%) and six points above attending an indoor religious service (47%).
Another encouraging sign for major studios and exhibitors: 60% of those polled said they expect to next see a movie in theaters within the next three months, which is the highest level that the figure has been since mid-November; dipping as low at 51% as recently as Jan. 25. As more movies hit the marquee in the coming weeks, i.e. Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, Tom & Jerry and Godzilla vs. Kong, polling numbers are expected to improve.
NRG has been polling frequent moviegoers over three times a week since the Covid crisis began. A frequent moviegoer is defined as a person who attends once a month.
Chinese New Year Pics ‘Hi, Mom’ & ‘Detective Chinatown 3’ Top $600M Each As Middle Kingdom Exceeds $2B In 2021
Leaders last session, Detective Chinatown 3 and Hi Mom, both crossed the RMB 4B mark locally, with each at an estimated RMB 4.02B ($621M) cume through Sunday. This is after just 10 days of play for each film, and boosts both up the all-time charts…Hi, Mom, a time-travel comedy from comedian-turned-filmmaker Jia Ling that has benefited from great word of mouth, is projected to become the No. 2 all-time highest-grossing film in China with a Maoyan-estimated final of RMB 5.17B ($799M).
Since the beginning of 2021, China’s takings are estimated at RMB 13.88B ($2.15B), or 98% of North America across all 2020 and 69% of China’s total 2020.
‘Detective Chinatown 3’ Tops ‘Avengers: Endgame’ For Biggest Opening Weekend Ever In A Single Market
Chinese moviegoers ushered in the Year of the Ox with the colossal three-day debut of Detective Chinatown 3 grossing an estimated RMB 2.57B ($398M). This tops Avengers: Endgame’s 2019 five-day China bow of RMB 2.22B to make DC3 not only the biggest opener in Chinese history, but also giving it bragging rights to the biggest opening weekend ever in a single market — overtaking Endgame’s North American launch of $357M from April 2019.
DC3 also set new IMAX records. From Wanda Pictures, the Chen Sicheng-directed buddy comedy was entirety shot with IMAX Certified Cameras and grossed RMB 152M ($23.5M) in the format in China this session, making it the best IMAX opening weekend ever for a Chinese movie. It is also the top FSS run of admissions ever for IMAX in China, with 2.1M tickets sold versus Endgame’s 1.94M.
Chinese New Year Box Office Hits $1.2B, Sets Record High Over Holiday Period
The Chinese New Year box office achieved yet another milestone Wednesday, with grosses for the holiday period growing to an estimated RMB 7.78 billion ($1.2 billion). This beats the previous all-time high set during the comparable 2019 holiday (RMB 5.9B). China often outdoes itself, but the fact that 2021’s Lunar New Year frame came with Covid capacity restrictions makes the performance even more staggering.
After setting new records for opening day and opening weekend in a single market (February 12-14), Wanda Pictures’ Detective Chinatown 3 has grossed RMB 3.56B ($551 million) through Wednesday. It is not only far and away the top movie of the year globally, but is also nearly 20% bigger than 2020’s top worldwide title, China’s The Eight Hundred — and this after just six days of play, with more to come.Xinhua reports that more than 155 million tickets were sold during the New Year frame, up from 130M in 2019. That’s reflective of pent-up demand for big new titles — especially given Detective Chinatown 3 was delayed by a year when Covid shuttered cinemas in early 2020 — and in part reflective of the increased number of screens in the market, which was 75,500 by the end of 2020, compared to just under 70,000 at the end of 2019.
How ‘Detective Chinatown 3’ Became A Box Office Sensation & What The Middle Kingdom’s Resurgence Means For The Global Theatrical Industry
In the span of six days, the Chinese box office roared to a $1.2B Lunar New Year record, with Wanda Pictures’ Detective Chinatown 3 setting global benchmarks for the biggest opening day and weekend in a single market.
What we’re hearing is optimism and encouragement on the part of studio execs (I received a number of excited emails from L.A. as the China grosses grew all across last weekend). The execs we’ve spoken with since believe China is demonstrating that when people feel safe and there is shiny new product on offer, audiences will return to cinemas in droves.“By waiting for Chinese New Year, they maximized. They brilliantly executed a very patient and smart plan for that movie. They didn’t succumb to streaming or say, ‘Hey, here’s a clear window.’ It was a really, really smart move. — U.S. distribution exec on ‘DC3’
Eric Wold of B. Riley Securities wrote that the Lunar New Year success “only demonstrates the power of the theatrical window for blockbuster films — and a reason to hold onto a film vs. pivoting too early to make the film available on streaming platforms. We also believe this highlights the box office opportunity for an exceptional portfolio of films that have been delayed from 2020 and early 2021 into the second half of 2021 and 2022.”
Imax CEO Richard Gelfond on What China’s Huge Theatrical Recovery Means for Hollywood
No North American movie company is more closely linked to the Chinese film industry’s fortunes than Imax Corp. The Ontario-based giant-screen exhibitor has more than 700 Imax theaters in China — nearly half its global total of 1,500 — and the company has said it plans to add as many as 400 new theaters there over the next three years. So when China’s movie industry roared back into growth mode last weekend during the start of the Lunar New Year holiday, Imax was among the big beneficiaries. The company had its strongest revenue weekend ever in China, pulling in $25 million in ticket sales over three days — a 45 percent gain over its prior record during Chinese New Year in 2019.Says Rance Pow, president of exhibition industry consultancy Artisan Gateway: "China’s theatrical sector rebound suggests the appeal of cinema is alive and well, and reason for optimism as the global industry is reignited with must-see blockbusters on tap in the coming months."
Imax CEO Richard Gelfond: “I think China tells us 100 percent that when people feel comfortable going to the movies — when it's safe and there are great movies available — they're coming back. There's no question in my mind. They're coming back in big numbers, and they're going to come back particularly to Imax, because when they can leave their home, they’re going to want to experience something that feels transporting and special…And by the way, we haven’t only seen this in China. We also saw it in Japan [when cinemas reopened there last year], with Demon Slayer becoming the number one movie in the history of Japan’s box office — and it was also the number one Japanese movie ever in Imax. We've seen it in Korea. We've seen it in Taiwan. There's nothing unique to the Chinese people that suggests that their behavior is going to be different than anyone else….I'm going to paraphrase what someone else said, because I like it. "Everyone has a kitchen in their house, but we still go to restaurants." The fact that they happen to have an ability to watch something in their living room doesn't mean they're going to stop going to movies.”
“Piracy. Virtually every film that's opened in China this year, whether it was the Disney film Mulan or Wonder Woman from Warner Bros, they all came off of some kind of simultaneous online run, whether it was PVOD or a streaming run. The Imax office in China has said to me that there's no question that massive piracy trampled down the box office of these movies….This past weekend, Warner released Judas and the Black Messiah at midnight. People at Warners said that at 12:01 a.m. there were pirated versions available, and at something like 12:03 a.m. there were pirated versions with Spanish subtitles circulating in Latin America….Remember, these pirated copies aren't ones where people went into a theater with an iPhone; they're perfect digital copies, as good as the original. So in a place like China, where piracy is very common, you can't overstate the impact of those kinds of releases. Frankly, I think once the pandemic subsides, the studios are going to go away from simultaneous streaming and Chinese releases because the piracy really plays a role in killing the Chinese box office.”
Q: Imax-friendly movies like Dune and Godzilla vs. Kong. Are you expecting they may do the China releases a couple of weeks ahead of the the rest of the world and HBO Max to mitigate piracy losses?
"I do think Warner has made rumblings, but no official announcement, that it's going to release in China early. And I think if they did that, that would be a really good policy because I think even they recognize the impact of piracy.”
CineEurope Delays To Autumn
European exhibitors’ showcase CineEurope has delayed from its typical June slot until October, with organizers citing the ongoing pandemic. “We know from talking to many cinema people across Europe that the thing they’re currently missing most is the ability to meet face-to-face with colleagues at industry events,” said FilmExpoGroup in a statement. “But we’re also hearing that the current pace of the vaccination roll-out and the likelihood that travel restrictions will remain in place for some time to come make it unlikely that many will be able to attend CineEurope in Barcelona this June.”The event will now run October 4-7.
Roku Glides Past Wall Street Q4 Expectations As Streaming Continues Its March
The company reported fourth-quarter results ahead of Wall Street expectations as revenue shot up 58% from a year ago to just shy of $650 million.Users streamed 17 billion hours in the quarter, Roku said, and more than 58 billion hours in 2020, with both numbers representing a 55% year-over-year increase. The company’s interface is in 38% of all smart-TVs made in the U.S….The company added some 14 million active users in 2020, ending the year with 51 million active accounts….The quarter, which ended December 31, was an active one. The company completed a long-awaited distribution deal with WarnerMedia for HBO Max. It also negotiated the acquisition of Quibi’s programming, announcing that deal in January.Asked about key 2020 trends, Scott Rosenberg, SVP and GM of Roku’s platform business, also highlighted the “powerful subscriber acquisition tactic” of debuting theatrical movies on streaming platforms. Time will tell how the marketplace performs and moviegoers respond as Covid recedes, he said. Nevertheless, he noted, “Consumers are learning that the best, most current theatrical programming may be available for viewing in the comfort of their own homes.”
AVOD reach hits new high in UK, France, and US
The penetration of free video streaming services reached a new high in the UK, France, and the United States in 2020, according to data from market analysts Ampere.Over two-thirds (68%) of internet users in the UK used a free advertising video-on-demand (AVOD) or broadcaster video-on-demand (BVOD) service in the past month during Q1 2020, the highest level in the past five years. Peaks were also seen in France (at 42% in Q3 2020) and the United States (28% in Q3 2020).
BritBox Sets South Africa Launch
BBC Studios and ITV said on Tuesday that their joint streaming venture BritBox will launch in South Africa in the second half of 2021. With the introduction in the country, the advertising-free subscription VOD service will expand into its fifth territory following successful launches in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, and, most recently, Australia.Last year, BritBox executives unveiled plans for a global rollout to get the streaming platform into up to 25 new countries and bring audiences "an unrivalled collection of great British TV shows and the very best in British box sets, drama premieres and live events, as well as original commissions."
BBC launches North America streaming service
BBC Studios has debuted a new streaming service in the United States and Canada. BBC Select will initially be available on Amazon Prime Video Channels and the Apple TV app. In contrast to the entertainment-led BritBox, run with partner ITV, BBC Select will stream documentary series and specials.
Disney+ Went Down For 10 Minutes As Latest ‘WandaVision’ Episode Dropped
Disney+ suffered outages across the U.S., Canada, and the UK as subscribers fired up the streamer to watch the seventh episode of Marvel’s WandaVision. The episode dropped early on Friday morning, but users reported issues with their Disney+ account on Twitter. Many said the streamer was crashing.Downdector, a website that monitors web outages, showed there was a huge spike in issues around midnight on the west coast — just as WandaVision went live. Early risers in the UK also reported problems. Deadline understands that Disney+ went down for a limited number of subscribers for around 10 minutes before the issue was quickly resolved.
Netflix research finds that people decide within 5 seconds whether to keep watching a show
Christopher Mack, director of talent investment and development at Netflix, said during a recent event for creative professionals that the company's consumer-insights team has found audiences subconsciously decide whether they're going to watch a show within five seconds of starting it.
Mack said to hook audiences with a teaser, or an opening scene that gives viewers a taste of the show's central character, conflict, and world. He also suggested starting every episode with a teaser, unless the episode picks up directly after dramatic events the last episode left off on. "This is your opportunity to get your first 'yes' with a teaser," Mack said. "They may tune in and their mind might say this might not be a show for them, but there might be something in that teaser that makes them want to stick around and see what's going on."
Disney+ Unveils Debut Slate Of 10 European Originals, Including First Projects For International Streamer Star
Spearheaded by Diego Londono, Disney’s EVP of media networks and content in EMEA, and Liam Keelan, VP of original content in the region, Disney+ has commissioned its first projects out of France, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands. Deadline hears that a UK slate is also close to being announced, as Disney lavishes $16 billion on content over the next three years.The European slate includes a mix of dramas, comedies, and documentaries, with Disney+ projects targetting a family-friendly audience, while Star shows are aimed at a more adult audience. Londono and Keelan have been talking to producers for the past year and are hoping to see some of their first European shows launch later in 2021. Star has given them more flexibility in terms of the types of programs they can commission, although they recognize that they are entering a crowded market, with Netflix, Amazon, and Apple all fishing for high-caliber international series. Authenticity is a key watchword for Star, and the first 10 projects are all local language stories, often rooted in real-life events.
Wednesday Addams Live-Action Series From Tim Burton Ordered By Netflix It’s official: Netflix has landed Tim Burton’s live-action Addams Family series with an eight-episode order for a spinoff focused on the iconic character of Wednesday Addams….The YA series, Wednesday Addams’ first solo vehicle, marks Burton’s first live-action show and his TV directing debut. https://deadline.com/2021/02/wednesday-addams-live-action-series-tim-burton-netflix-al-gough-miles-millar-to-showrun-1234695553/
Apple & Skydance Animation Set Multi-Year Feature Film & TV Deal pple on Wednesday unveiled a multiyear partnership with Skydance Animation to deliver kids and families animated theatrical features and TV series. Apple TV+ has a reach of 100 countries. The deal begins with the recent Apple acquisitions of Skydance’s upcoming animated titles Luck and Spellbound. Additionally, Skydance Animation is making its TV debut on Apple TV+ with two seasons of The Search for WondLa, which is based on the book series by Tony DiTerlizzi. https://deadline.com/2021/02/apple-skydance-animation-set-multi-year-feature-tv-deal-1234695506/
‘Gremlins’ Prequel Animated Series Gets Early Season 2 Renewal By HBO Max HBO Max has given an early Season 2 renewal to Gremlins, the animated prequel to the beloved film franchise, from Warner Bros. Animation and Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television…The Season 2 greenlight comes ahead of the first season premiere of Gremlins: The Secrets of the Mogwai, which is currently in production. https://deadline.com/2021/02/gremlins-gets-early-season-2-renewal-by-hbo-max-tca-1234695495/
WarnerMedia Unveils Ambitious Preschool And Kids Blocks On HBO Max, Cartoon Network; Preschool Slate To Reach 50 Originals By 2023 The company made the announcement of the fall programming plans ahead of a virtual upfront presentation to media buyers. HBO Max is ramping up its offerings for advertisers ahead of the launch of an ad-supported tier of its service, which WarnerMedia expects to launch by June.Competition for preschool and elementary-school viewers and their families used to be, at best, a two-horse race between Nickelodeon and Disney. But that was in the linear age. With digital and streaming continuing to explode, Netflix, Amazon, Apple and YouTube have all made significant forays in the kids arena, to varying levels of success. Disney has successfully pivoted into direct-to-consumer streaming, with Disney+, and HBO Max is the latest multi-billion-dollar streaming effort with a kids component. https://deadline.com/2021/02/warnermedia-preschool-kids-programming-hbo-max-cartoon-network-1234695330/
DOTA: Dragon’s Blood’: Netflix Announces Anime Series Based On Valve Video Game Franchise The world of DOTA will come to Netflix as the streamer announced on Tuesday a new anime series based off the popular video game franchise from Valve. DOTA: Dragon’s Blood is an 8-episode series that will launch globally on the streaming platform on March 25. DOTA 2, which Valve released in 2013, is a sequel to the original Defense of the Ancients (DOTA). The multiplayer online battle arena title of the world’s leading online games, that currently hosts millions of players daily and holds multiple records for top e-sports tournament prize earnings. https://deadline.com/2021/02/dota-dragons-blood-netflix-anime-series-valve-video-game-franchise-1234694990/
‘The Raid’ Director Gareth Evans Signs Exclusive Deal With Netflix, Sets Tom Hardy-Led ‘Havoc’ As First Film
Gareth Evans has found his new home for the next several years as the director of The Raid franchise has signed an exclusive deal with Netflix to produce and direct films for the studio. As part of the new partnership, Evans has set the action thriller Havoc as the first film under the deal with Tom Hardy on board to star.
J.J. Abrams’ Original Drama ‘Subject To Change’ Greenlit At HBO Max
J.J. Abrams has created an original thriller that has been handed a series order by HBO Max. The streamer has ordered Subject to Change with See writer and exec producer Jennifer Yale set to act as showrunner and exec producer. This series follows a desperate college student who signs up for a clinical trial that begins a wild, harrowing, mind- and reality-bending adventure. The drama is produced by Bad Robot in association with Warner Bros. Television.