Movie 2021, ‘Spider-Man’ Wins Will Smith, ‘Western Story’

LOS ANGELES — A-list star. Quick review. Release strategies that rely solely on the big screen.

Even the biggest draws won’t entice audiences out of their homes and back into theaters for more movies in 2021.

Will Smith’s “King Richard,” Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story,” and more than a dozen other titles will end this year in a gross graveyard, raising further questions of whether the studios will continue. release so many adult-oriented films in cinemas? all.

The difficulty with such films was highlighted earlier this month by seismic The success of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” had the second-highest opening weekend of all time with $260 million in the US and Canada earlier this month and to date. grossed over 1 billion dollars worldwide.

The results proved that audiences will still be looking for a superhero movie, even as lower-budget movies are entering the holiday season with little or no traction. As studio execs assess what to do with their 2022 blocker, some are already planning to offer even more of their non-negative titles to streaming services. keep their stock prices afloat.

Main culprit: a large number of moviegoers still reluctant to return out in theaters. The hit movies of 2021 are all geared towards younger audiences – “Spider-Man” as well as his similarly suitable counterparts, “Black Widow” and “Shangzhi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”. The annual box office rarely forms such a hierarchy, only an adult-oriented drama—”Gucci house”- track the top 30 highest-grossing movies of the year.

The successful movies of 2021 like ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ are aimed at younger audiences.


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Sony Pictures / Associated Press

“Those are the regular audiences who don’t come back,” said Tearlach Hutcheson, vice president of film at Studio Movie Grill, a 21-site chain of theaters with 226 screens in seven states.

Many of those consumers who may have seen a movie or two a year have stopped watching, he added, even as younger and more frequent visitors have returned.

Procrastination among older moviegoers is expected to grow with the spread of Omicron variant of Covid-19, has increased in the days leading up to the important holiday. Christmas weekend, “Spider-Man” continues to dominate ticket sales at record-setting levels, while some films that appeal to older audiences, such as “The Matrix Resurrections,” “A Journal for Jordan” and “Licorice Pizza,” have withered.

The new “Matrix,” which comes out nearly 23 years after the original film premiered, appeals to an older audience — about half of the opening weekend audience is over 35 years old.

“If you have a slightly older demographic than we are, then that audience is a little more reluctant,” said Jeff Goldstein, president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros.

Finally, many of this year’s other biggest disappointments have drawn older crowds in low numbers. About 54% of “West Side Story” opening weekend moviegoers were over 35 years old, and the movie grossed only about $10 million.

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A scene from ‘The French Dispatch’ featuring Bill Murray (wearing a vest).


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Searchlight Pictures / Associated Press

According to data from studio WarnerMedia, a similar proportion of older ticket buyers appeared for “King Richard,” the biopic about the fathers of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. It grossed $5.7 million and is on track to become one of the lowest-grossing films of the actor’s career.

Other titles aimed at attracting adults have come and gone: “The Last Duel,” starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck; “Tammy Faye’s Eyes,” with Andrew Garfield; and “The French Dispatch,” a Wes Anderson film featuring Timothée Chalamet.

The musical has continued to be a huge hit, from “West Side Story” to the Broadway adaptations of “Dear Evan Hansen” and “In the Heights.” Oscars favorites “Nightmare Alley,” “Belfast,” and “Licorice Pizza” are all entering awards season with anemic grosses.

More is at stake than missed revenue projections. The performance of such films raises questions about the studio’s strategy in 2022, when executives must decide whether to test these types of smaller films in the theatrical market. When Covid-19 closed the auditorium in 2020, studios pushed into streaming plans and dedicated theatrical release only for the biggest movies.

Most studios have split the distinction between movie theater and home service.

Walt Disney Have.

DIS 1.57%

“Encanto,” an animated film about a magical family, opened in theaters on November 24 but debuted on the company’s Disney+ service on December 24, giving consumers a choice of: Home picks during the week are often popular with home moviegoers.

Going into the next year, Comcast Corp’s Universal Pictures.

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Encanto, premiered in theaters on November 24 and debuted on the Disney+ service on December 24.


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Disney / Associated Press

The studio will send many of its 2022 movies to its sister streaming service, Peacock, as early as 45 days after they debut in theaters, the company said.

Movies affected by the plan include January’s action-thriller “The 355,” starring Jessica Chastain, as well as Jennifer Lopez’s romantic comedy “Marry Me,” which is set to premiere. in February. “Ticket to Paradise,” starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney, could be coming to Peacock in more than a month and a half, as can a sequel to Universal’s lucrative “Halloween” and “Downton Abbey” series.

When announcing the change, the studio didn’t include its top priorities “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” both of which are sequels to franchise franchises. of the studio.

Going forward, exhibitors say studios will look to such high-quality films to reliably draw crowds, even if smaller films do not.

“It is not the habit of consuming too much, but the fact of whether or not. People want to be part of a global event,” said Richard Gelfond, chief executive officer of IMAX Corp, the premium auditorium company. “People will want to go out in search of something they can’t get in their home.”

More Netflix viewers watched the dubbed version of the Korean drama “Squid Game” than the subtitled version. The WSJ met with one of the show’s English-speaking voice actors to see how dubbing foreign content is fueling the streaming giant’s growth. Photo illustration: Sharon Shi

Write letter for Erich Schwartzel at erich.schwartzel@wsj.com

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Ian Walker

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