Summer in the Spring

By Michael Olinger

Welcome to the Cinemark Business Blog, your one stop shop for business news about one of the largest movie exhibitors in the world! My name is Michael Olinger, and I am one of your presenters, or guides, if you will. Not all of my posts here will begin so (pardon the pun) theatrically, but in the spirit of the best films, I figured it might be good to begin with a bang, to show a little showmanship.

Showmanship is the name of the game for today’s blog post as well, as 2017’s biggest, splashiest movies are making their way into theaters right now.

That’s right. Summer movie season is upon us!

Wait. Huh? What’s this…Spring…you speak of?

OK. Let me clarify. For the climatologists out there Spring may be springing, but in the movie business the entire season was shown the door at least a few years ago.

Hugh Jackman: Feral dreamboat.

Summer movie season, way back when spending an evening at a Flock of Seagulls concert was a legitimate way to make your friends jealous, used to run from Memorial Day through the end of July.

As time progressed, July became mid-August, and Memorial Day became the first weekend in May, owing to the 1999 Brendan Frasier “classic”, The Mummy. From then on, summer tent poles have moved earlier and earlier on the calendar in an effort to stake out opening weekends to themselves.

Last year The Jungle Book kicked off summer in mid-March. This year Disney’s Beauty and the Beast remake is doing the same thing. Even then, the 2017 summer movie season ACTUALLY started just this past weekend with the release of Logan, the latest entry in 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise and the swansong for franchise stars Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart.

The movie opened to a massive $85 million at the box office, one of the stronger openings in the franchise, and it fired the starting gun on a gauntlet of high profile, big budget tent poles that won’t subside until September.

Give me the chopper and the points.

Next week brings Kong: Skull Island. The week after that is the previously mentioned Beauty and the Beast remake. Then comes the Jake Gylenhaal/Ryan Reynolds space station set horror/thriller Life and the shiny as a plastic action figure big budget Power Rangers movie. March 31 brings a spiffy Americanized take on Ghost in the Shell and The Boss Baby. Notice how I haven’t even gotten to April yet?

Indeed it is, Bubba. Indeed it is.

I could keep going but something tells me that if I just keep listing things Bubba from Forrest Gump style, I might lose you. If I haven’t already.

The point is this, for an exhibitor like Cinemark, summer movie season is the most profitable time of the year. The big studios put all their finery on display and theaters essentially have a license to print money. As the season keeps expanding, theaters have more and more time to gorge on the bounty of “summer”.

Tickets for summer movies accounted for 46% of annual revenue in 2008, and that was back when the summer season was limited to May, June, July and the first half of August. Since then, the gravy train has not only kept on rolling, it has added new cars.

Comparison of annual ticket sales for 2008 and 2009. (Monthly data compiled from the-numbers.com)

As you can see in the graph above, taken from Investopedia, numbers trend way up in the summer months. Only holiday movie season in November and December even comes close to putting up the numbers that theaters like Cinemark see in the summer. It used to be that January through April and the last half of August through the start of November were dead zones littered with low and mid-budget movies, high priced duds the studios hated, and quirky films they didn’t know what to do with. That simply isn’t the case any more.

Welcome to summer. Mind the snow.

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