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Box Office: Remainder Of 2018 Is In Trouble

Summary

The 2018 box office has been up big this year, but the majority of revenues have come from a few key "blockbusters" early in the year.

The July 2018 monthly box office was down ~48% from 2017 ($685.3 in July 2018 vs. $1,011.1 in July 2017).

The remaining 3Q18 release schedule looks very weak with no more "Blockbusters."

4Q18 will see no Star Wars or Marvel movies such as The Last Jedi or Thor: Ragnarok like 4Q17 had to save the day.

On top of all this, any bump that MoviePass has been giving to the industry (which is debated, I know) will likely end starting next month as the service changes to become more pricey.

I'm a big believer in AMC Theaters. It is my movie theater of choice and I love the AMC Stubs Rewards Program. I think that going to the movies is a great American pastime, just like driving and road trips, that we will never really get over. I'm not someone who buys into the "the sky is falling," and the "movie theaters are doomed" sentiment. 

Because of this, I'm an investor in AMC. I have made some good money off of the stock after the market over-correction from the bad 2017 box office numbers. I even own AMC right now and did a little day-trading of it this morning. However, I cannot get over the feeling that things are going to get worse before they get any better. The positive sentiment I have seen about the box office numbers this year doesn't seem to be looking at the facts. The reality is that a little over a handful of movies have made the difference for 2018: "Black Panther," "Avengers: Infinity War," "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," "Incredibles 2," and "Deadpool 2." And these all came out early in the year to boost this public sentiment. Now that the fury of blockbuster releases is over... things aren't looking good. 

The remainder of 3Q18 looks abysmal, with "Disney's Christopher Robin" looking like the only promising contributor. These are the rest of the "decent-looking" (in my opinion) wide releases in 3Q18:

  • The Darkest Minds
  • The Spy Who Dumped Me
  • Dog Days (2018)
  • The Meg
  • Crazy Rich Asians
  • The Predator (2018)

This list of films is going to be lucky to reach $50-$70 million a piece domestically, with maybe one or two closing in around $100 million.

Even a bad 3Q18 isn't a death sentence, but 4Q18 is where things start looking grim.  2017 box office numbers as a whole were saved by 2017's 4th quarter with the releases of films like "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" and "Thor: Ragnarok." This year... Disney isn't coming to the rescue. There is no Disney Star Wars or Disney Marvel film to push us over the top. To think that we're seeing a December that is going to rely on WB's "Aquaman" and Paramount's "Bumlebee (Transformers spin-off)" to match Star Wars number is... well... depressing. Fantastic Beasts, the Harry Potter spin-off franchise, just isn't pulling in Harry Potter money, and we have had some big December release, be it The Hobbit or Star Wars franchises, for the past 5 years in December.  

Now there are some bright spots. Sony's "Venom" comes out early in 4Q18, and then we'll see the Harry Potter World "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" in November. But I worry that these won't be enough. Hopefully Disney's "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" and Universal's "Dr. Seuss' The Grinch (2018)" can appeal to enough families over the holidays to make up for lost ground. We'll also see Disney help us out with two other family releases in 4Q18: "Ralph Breaks the Internet," and "Marry Poppins Returns." These can definitely pull in some families, but 4Q17 had these sorts of films as well on top of their major blockbusters.

Bottom line: I am stressed to see the remainder of the year, 5 whole months, without another powerhouse film like a Hobbit, Star Wars, Disney Marvel, or true Harry Potter. The remainder of this year could be grim, let's wait and see.

Disclosure: I am/we are long AMC.