The movies have suffered through a brutal summer with very few box office hits to count against the period from just after Memorial Day through Labor Day. The string was capped by the industry’s worst Labor Day since 2000.
“The Hit Man’s Body Guard”, which has been in theaters since August 18 took the pole position for the weekend. It only pulled in $10.3 million, not even modest based on most past Labor Day results. Over the three day weekend, the top 12 movies only grossed $51.1 million. A strong Labor Day movies often does that on its own.
That said, both The Hitman’s Bodyguard and Annabelle: Creation delivered strong performances to top the weekend. In fact, only four films in the top ten saw any kind of drop compared to last weekend and those drops were minimal with Annabelle’s 5% drop being the largest within the top ten. Unfortunately the weekend’s new releases didn’t make much of a dent with Lionsgate’s Hazlo Como Hombre and Weinstein’s Tulip Fever failing to crack the top twenty.
Hazlo Como Hombre has no bankable stars. Neither does Tulip Fever.
The movie theater industry has to struggle with the problem of whether it is a lack of hit movies or the move to new distribution technology which has hit it hardest. The financial results of AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AMC) would indicate that people have started to pull out of trips to theaters. Its share price has fallen from a 52-week high of $35.65 to its current price of $14.15.
The enemies of the theater business are powerful companies, which include primarily Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX). They do not release new movies at the same time as theaters, but for a modest price, the subscriber can see new movies often in a matter of a few months. And these streaming services have libraries of thousand of movies. Consider the price of Amazon Prime, which includes it movie and TV streaming service, as well as free shipping a music service, photo storage and low prices on some of the products Amazon sells, is $8.99. A theater ticket can cost nearly as much. And both Amazon and Netflix produce original content, many of which compete with consumer attention for new movies.
The weekend box office numbers for Labor Day weekend could be a sign of a lack of popular movies, or it could be something more sinister and damaging to the industry long term