It was quite a rebound year for the movie business in 2018.
After a year of big-budget duds and attendance hitting a 25-year low in 2017, seeing theatres full this entire year was a big morale boost for the industry.
In fact, the domestic box office set a box office record with a $US11.38 billion take (and still climbing).
But there were also big changes to the industry that will be felt in 2019 and beyond. The popularity of MoviePass has given a boost to movie ticket subscription plans (whether or not that company stays in business), and Disney buying 20th Century Fox proves that the movie studio system as we’ve known it for decades is disappearing.
Here we look at 5 things to keep an eye out for in 2019:
1. Expect more movie ticket subscription options
One of the big stories at the movies in 2018 was the rise (and colossal fall) of MoviePass. But what the company showed the industry is that theatergoers love a subscription model as much as they love one for their favourite streaming service. This opened the door for AMC Theatres to launch its A-List plan, which has also become extremely popular, with subscriptions exceeding the chain’s projections. And there are other options like Sinemia and Cinemark’s Movie Club.
More options are likely coming. Regal has been quiet when it comes to a movie subscription plan, but industry sources tell Business Insider they would be shocked if the company didn’t unveil one in 2019. And Alamo Drafthouse could launch its subscription plan as well. Its Alamo Season Pass is currently in a beta version.
2. Another Disney/Fox-like studio merger isn’t out of the question
This year’s news that Disney would acquire assets from 21st Century Fox, including its movie studio, likely caused other entertainment CEOs with existing studios salivating at the idea of nabbing a second. The question on everyone’s mind is: Which studios will be next to team up?
As far as we hear, there are no serious talks yet. But the studios that always come up in conversation are Sony and Paramount. Both have been on the low side of studio earners in the last handful of years. However, with Sony finding a box office resurgence in its Spider-Man properties and Paramount signing a multi-picture deal with Netflix, you could see both companies as being on the rebound and attractive as acquisition targets.
3. Will the new owner of the country’s largest independent theatre chain force a rethink on the theatrical window?
In December, Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner’s Landmark Theatres, the largest independent theatre chain in US with 252 screens in 27 markets, was sold to Charles S. Cohen’s Cohen Media Group for an undisclosed amount. News of a sale was expected, as the chain had been rumoured to be sold to everyone from Amazon to Netflix to Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios. Less discussed is how the Cohen Media Group could shift the theatrical window all on its own.
Landmark is an outlier as a big chain in that it’s willing to show Netflix movies theatrically, even though the streaming giant continues to show most of its titles in theatres and online at the same time. Cohen has already indicated that won’t change on his watch. If the company wanted to, it could push for a shorter theatrical window (typically the 90-day period a movie shows in theatres before going to streaming or another ancillary market). Cohen Media Group is also an independent distribution and production company (it released past Oscar nominees “Faces Places” and “Frozen River”), which gives it control of both the making and release of movies. Another reason why a shorter window for a company that releases indies and foreign titles (which typically do better on streaming) may be more appealing.
4. 2019 could break the all-time box office record just set in 2018
The North American box office has already passed 2016’s record $US11.37 billion record, and the worldwide box office looks like it will also hit an all-time record, but it could be just the beginning.
On paper, there are arguably more anticipated releases in 2019 than this year, including “Captain Marvel,” “Avengers: Endgame,” Tim Burton’s Disney movie “Dumbo,” the DC Comics movie “Shazam!,” Jordan Peele’s “Us” (the follow up to “Get Out”), “Aladdin,” “Dark Phoenix,” “Men in Black International,” “Toy Story 4,” “The Lion King,” “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” and “Star Wars: Episode IX,” So, the 2019 box office could surpass this year’s.
5. The impact Apple will have once its original movie content is unveiled will be substantial
There was a lot of news in 2018 about Apple’s plans for TV, but its plans for the movie side are still cloudy.
We know it’s teaming with independent producer/distributor A24 (“Moonlight”) on a multi-year deal to release a slate of films. But you would think that’s just one branch of Apple’s massive plan for original content. Is Apple going to flex its muscles and try to produce blockbusters? Will it do theatrical runs? If so, will it respect the window like Amazon or go the way of Netflix? I’d like to think we’ll get a clearer picture in 2019, but whatever these answers are, it’s going to be another major change in a business that has had a lot recently.
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