Public access radio that connects community members to one another and the world
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Join KDNK for the Chili & Cornbread Cookoff on Saturday, March 16th.

As 2023's strikes catch up with Hollywood, box office revenue is expected to drop

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Whether you thought of it as Barbenheimer or as the bombshell and the bomb, the double whammy of a hot pink comedy...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BARBIE")

RYAN GOSLING: (As Ken) Hi, Barbie.

MARGOT ROBBIE: (As Barbie) Hi, Ken.

SUMMERS: ...And an atom bomb biopic...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "OPPENHEIMER")

MATT DAMON: (As Leslie) Let's go recruit some scientists.

SUMMERS: ...Led Hollywood to $9 billion of ticket sales in North America last year. That is well ahead of 2022 and pulling closer to healthy pre-pandemic levels. But revenues are expected to be down sharply in the coming year. We asked NPR's Bob Mondello to explain.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: On one level, it's obvious - overlapping strikes by Hollywood's writers and actors stopped film production cold.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BARBIE")

ROBBIE: (As Barbie) Do you guys ever think about dying?

MONDELLO: From May 2 to November 9, a little over six months. In other words, the film industry lost 50% of its production time in 2023, and that means fewer movies will be ready for theaters in 2024. The studios delayed a few big pictures...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DUNE: PART TWO")

TIMOTHEE CHALAMET: (As Paul) I see possible futures.

MONDELLO: "Dune 2," for instance.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DUNE: PART TWO")

CHALAMET: (As Paul) It's only fragments.

MONDELLO: And shuffled some others so there'd be a semblance of normalcy through the holidays. But even with a lot of scrambling to get other films finished, there will be many fewer openings in the next few months.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DUNE: PART TWO")

CHALAMET: (As Paul) But I do see a way. There is a narrow way through.

MONDELLO: Currently on tap through April are just 31 wide releases, meaning films opening in at least a thousand theaters, compared with 44 a year ago. And fewer movies means revenues will likely be down.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DUNE: PART TWO")

ZENDAYA: (As Chani) This prophecy is how they enslave us.

MONDELLO: Adding to the problem, theaters this year can't rely on Christmas blockbusters playing themselves out to get through January and February. "Spider-Man" and "Avatar" sequels dominated the previous two Christmases, and each made hundreds of millions of dollars after New Year's. "Wonka," "Aquaman," "The Color Purple"...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE COLOR PURPLE")

TARAJI P HENSON: (As Shug, singing) Now that I've got your attention...

MONDELLO: ...Didn't bust any blocks in the first place and definitely won't be doing that.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE COLOR PURPLE")

COREY HAWKINS: (As Harpo) Drinks on the house.

MONDELLO: Less talked about is the fact that there are fewer cinemas now. Theater chains staring down bankruptcy at the start of the pandemic, when nearly all of the nation's multiplexes were dark for months, permanently closed many of their weaker locations. The Cinema Foundation, an industry group, says that in December of 2019, there were 41,000 screens in North America. Two thousand of them disappeared during the pandemic. Add in franchise fatigue, even for previously indestructible legacy heroes...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY")

JOHN RHYS-DAVIES: (As Sallah) Give them hell, Indiana Jones.

MONDELLO: ...Plus an industry wide pandemic strategy that pushed audiences to streaming, and there's a steep hill to climb. That said, there are reasons for optimism. Even if 2024 is down by the billion dollars that industry analysts are predicting, those same analysts are calling Hollywood's 2025 schedule robust. And indeed, it's crammed with potential crowd-pleasers that got pushed back by the strikes - a new "Avatar," another "Fast & Furious," a new "Star Wars."

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS AND SKYWALKER SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA'S "MAIN THEME FROM STAR WARS")

MONDELLO: Maybe the business will bounce back. Hey, it's a dream factory.

I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS AND SKYWALKER SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA'S "MAIN THEME FROM STAR WARS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.