May 21, 2021 - Economy

Movie theaters eye summer box office rebound

movie theater patron covid mask

Moviegoers wear protective masks at an AMC movie theater in Los Angeles, March 15. Photo: Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The biggest test for moviegoer appetite since the pandemic is coming — and it's make-or-break for theaters trying to salvage their annihilated businesses.

Why it matters: The world is reopening and restrictions are rolling back. But the pandemic ushered in a new era for how studios release films that could stick around.

The summer box office kicks off with "A Quiet Place Part II" — out next Friday.

  • Yes, but: It'll be on streaming platform Paramount+ just 45 days later, half as much time as the typical exclusive theater release.

Catch up quick: Big films are landing on streaming services as they debut in theaters, or shortly thereafter. It's delivered a massive blow to theaters trying to lure back moviegoers who can just watch from their couches.

  • "What happens this summer will help studios decide how they're going to act later in the year, and especially around the holidays," Wedbush's Alicia Reese tells Axios.

What they're saying: "It's always frustrating when you don't have control over your product," Shelli Taylor, CEO of movie theater chain Alamo Drafthouse, said on today's episode of the Axios Re:Cap podcast.

  • "The situation for theaters ... is that we don't have control."

Of note: Alamo Drafthouse filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

  • Helped by the new obsession with AMC's stock (thanks to r/WallStreetBets), the theater chain has enough cash "to see them through to the return of attendance," says Reese.

Signs of life: The April box office hit $190 million, up 300% since February, the New York Times reports.

  • In the same month in 2019, the box office brought in $1 billion.
Go deeper