A new Marvel film is out, and thus the summer blockbuster season is officially here.
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Marvel’s (DIS) – Get Walt Disney Company Report mightiest sorcerer and directed by Sam Raimi, arrives nearly two decades after Raimi’s “Spider-Man” kick started the modern superhero boom.
Packed with twists and cameos, critics for the most part are liking the film, even if it sometimes sags under the weight of having to play off too many storylines from the larger Marvel Cinematic universe.
So far the film is off to a strong start with $36 million ticket sales on Thursday, which is one of the greatest sneak preview grosses ever.
AMC Hasn’t Had A Great Year So Far
Even before the pandemic hit, movie theaters were having a rough go of it.
“Avengers: Endgame” was a record-setting hit in 2019, but AMC nonetheless reported a net loss of $13.5 million that year, even as total revenue was up 2.4% to $1.44 billion from the year before.
2020 was, obviously, devastating to movie theaters, and AMC had one of its worst years ever, losing $4.6 billion.
Things rebounded for the company in 2021, thanks to vaccines and, for the most part, Marvel, with the phenomenal success of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” as well hits like “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
AMC hasn’t announced its first quarter earnings just yet, though we recently predicted that despite the continued success of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and DC’s hit “The Batman,” AMC management had signaled that it was a difficult quarter.
“The consensus among experts is for AMC to report a loss per share of 68 cents,” noted TheStreet’s Bernard Zamonin.
“That would imply growth of more than 50% compared to the same quarter last year, when the company was still struggling to climb out of the hole that the pandemic had put it in.”
The protected revenue for AMC’s first quarter is $736.2 million, which is 397% compared to this time last year, but much less than the last two quarters, where AMC reported revenues “of $763 million and $1.17 billion, respectively.”
AMC has been making moves to turn things around for the company, including refinancing $5 billion of debt, thanks to AMC shareholders that allowed the company to issue new stock offerings.
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But it still needs to get its revenue up, and delivering popcorn isn’t likely to help.
AMC Needs Blockbusters, ASAP
One of AMC’s main problems is that thanks to streaming, it’s harder than ever to get people to see anything that’s not a blockbuster.
The cost of a ticket these days is usually around the same as a one month subscription to a streaming service.
Now people have gotten accustomed to waiting for the latest romantic comedy or indie drama to pop up on Netflix or Hulu, while only forking over cash for blockbuster films.
This can put theaters in a difficult position.
Experiments such as variable ticket pricing for its most popular films or stunts like a $24.99 Dr. Strange bucket of popcorn that looks like an ancient relic may sometimes work, but ultimately it needs to be more people in the theater on a more regular basis.
The problem is that blockbusters just don’t happen every week, even in the summer.
There’s plenty of blockbuster films that Hollywood and AMC hope will get butts in seats.
Marvel fans will be feasting this summer, as July 8 sees the release of “Thor: Love and Thunder,” the follow-up to director Taika Waititi’s beloved “Thor: Ragnarok.”
Hollywood’s sequelitis shows no signs of abating anytime soon, as “Jurassic World Dominion,” is due June 10 and May 27 sees the release of “Top Gun: Maverick,” a follow-up nearly four decades in the making.
Other potential big hits include “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” on May 27, “Minions: The Rise of Gru” on July 1 and, confusingly, “Lightyear,” which is based on a character from Pixar “Toy Story” series but is not the actual Buzz Lightyear that fans recognize.
We’ll see how that works.
But will this blockbuster summer mark a turning point for AMC and a sign that it’s moved past the pandemic era? Or will it prove to be a temporary salve while the company continues to fight for relevance in a streaming world?