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Movie theater industry continues comeback in 2023

Apr 25, 2023
Data: Gower Street Analytics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The box office recovery that was slow to materialize last year is now going better than expected in 2023.

Why it matters: Theater owners are betting that a resurgent box office will stop the industry shrinkage, especially as Cineworld climbs out of bankruptcy and AMC looks to pay down its hefty debt load.

By the numbers: The global box office is projected to top $30 billion in 2023, according to new projections from film industry analytics firm Gower Street.

  • Gower Street had previously forecast a yearly haul of $29 billion at the end of last year.
  • Buoyed by "Avatar's" rollover into January and the more recent breakout success of "The Super Mario Bros. Movie," ticket sales are pacing well ahead of the last three years with $2.49 billion through April 24, per Box Office Mojo.

Yes, but: We're still a long way from the peak. This year is still tracking down 16% from 2019 and 30% from 2018.

Of note: The raised projections came as the film industry gathers for CinemaCon in Las Vegas, the annual trade show where studios promote their upcoming slates to theater owners.

  • As with last year, the ongoing box office recovery will be a popular topic. So will the looming writers' strike, which could mess with release dates down the road.

What they're saying: Steven Spielberg said Tuesday morning during the Time100 Summit in New York that the theater industry will truly be back once adult comedies and more middle-tier movies do better.

  • "What is difficult and what is scary is audiences are not rushing back to see middle-range films," he said, but added that he's "optimistic that's going to happen."
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