National Cinema Day is here to save the Bo… wait, what’s that… OH GOD, IT’S NO WAY HOME AGAIN, WHY WON’T YOU DIE, and Other Box Office News.
Note: this article originally ran on Set the Tape (link).
You may have seen late last week the news that the overall Box Office performance over the Summer has been troubled, to say the least. Down 25% compared to 2019, the last Summer from the Before Times, and seemingly only going to get much worse in the following months since, y’know, nothing is coming out. It’s got people asking, with major cinema chains threatening to declare bankruptcy, how do we get things back to pre-pandemic levels? How do we get people back into cinemas?
Well, setting aside the fact that we’re arguably already back to pre-pandemic levels – as I noted right at the start of the year, cos sometimes I do actually know what I’m talking about – I’d argue the onus is on movie studios, foremost. Most immediately, they could permanently cut the share they demand of theatre’s ticket costs so that the cinemas don’t need to keep jacking up the overall prices, particularly when a calamitous recession is fast-approaching (especially in the UK), which would in turn put cinemas a little more in the black and tempt more people to the cinema more frequently due to lower entry costs. Longer-term, they could realise that this practice post-2015 of a Summer slate built entirely around five or six giant four-quadrant blockbusters, usually by Disney, with no B-tier or undercard or counterprogramming to speak of is fundamentally unsustainable, particularly when those blockbusters aren’t really hitting, and diversify their creative investments for a healthier and more balanced cinematic landscape.
Or, you can do a gimmicky non-committal half-step by declaring a National Cinema Day where all tickets are reduced to $3 in all formats as a desperate attempt to get people into the cinemas for films they have already seen multiple times and hide the fact that Labor Day weekend yet again has no major new releases. Technically, National Cinema Day has been a roaring success. According to the National Association of Theater Owners, who arranged the whole thing cos god forbid the studios bother trying to fix this shit of their own making, an estimated 8.1 million people attended one of the 3,000-odd participating cinemas this Saturday, by far the biggest single-day attendance of 2022. All of the weeks-old holdovers – barring the horrifically-received The Invitation, specialist release Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, and the just-plain dead Three Thousand Years of Longing – posted excellent holds or even gains from last weekend in spite of the lowered ticket prices. And the cinemas themselves probably made bank on their concession charges, which is where these places get the scran that keeps the lights on anyway.
Except that, y’know, this is still the worst Labor Day weekend result since the 90s, posting a total gross of $53 million. Both of the actual new Wide releases bombed out atrociously – the hilarious-sounding coming-of-age weepie Gigi & Nate pulling in $1.063 million from 1,184 screens, and the simul-Peacock-released Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul converting just $1.44 million from 1,880 screens. This stunt was just that, a stunt, designed to put a rotting My Little Pony bandage over the giant gaping shotgun wound which is the current theatrical landscape. There is, yet again, nothing of note releasing next week besides another low-budget horror of questionable-looking repute. And, to top it all off, your new Box Office #1 after all that is *checks notes* Spider-Man: No Way Home, re-releasing into cinemas with some deleted scenes – cos that’s what No Way Home was missing, more pointless time-killing fanservice – to the tune of $6 million. To borrow an MCU phrase, all that for a drop of blood.
I would like for the people innately tied to and/or responsible for art which connects deeply with my soul and helps me become a better person to stop turning out to be alleged monsters. Please. Just once. Here’s a Full List.
US Box Office Results: Friday 2nd September 2022 – Sunday 4th September 2022
1] Spider-Man: No Way Home
$6,000,000 / $810,168,477
Look, I’m sorry, folks. I’m really trying not to be a depressing, deeply-cynical, misery guts when penning these pieces. I do love movies, honest and truly, and I’m gaining absolutely no pleasure from this industry being so empty and bad right now. But there really is only so much I can say week-in-week-out about a thoroughly miserable set of new release movies and a schedule which is pointedly refusing to get better until at least late-October.
$5,500,000 / $698,829,744
When that gets combined with non-movie things like the continuing reveal of artists who moved me turning out to be alleged arseholes, a concerted effort by the industry and DISCOURSE to reform any and all alleged abusers to a creepy cult-like degree, the fact that we here in Britain just today (at time of writing) elected Liz Truss to PM, and that this horrifying dystopian gamification of our fast-inbound catastrophic energy price crisis aired on national TV…
3] DC League of Super-Pets
$5,450,000 / $80,806,000
I’m just tired. There’s only so much that daily citalopram and CBT techniques can do to mitigate the crushing weight of despair slowly encroaching, especially when even the culture that’s supposed to help take your mind off how bad things are getting is slowly being eroded by capitalist ghouls on both sides of the transaction divide. And I guess that this feature, which is ironically the thing that guarantees I do at least one article writing session each week when the rest of me gets into a depressive block, isn’t helping much today.
4] Bullet Train
$5,400,000 / $85,932,558
Not that I’m going to stop it, to be clear. Narcissistic though it may be, this series adds needed structure to my week even with the current mega-drought exposing how little I have to say about not-interesting movies hanging around for months at a time. At least it guarantees one day a week where I’m not inadvertently spending it all laid on bed fussing the cats in a weird malaise.
5] The Invitation
$4,705,000 / $13,749,963
I just needed to vent most of this out somewhere this one time, which doesn’t even count for the private stuff I’m not sharing online. I’m tired, is all, and this dysphoria from a country which does not recognise my gender isn’t helping. We’ll be more professional from next week, promise.
$3,640,000 / $25,419,575
So, let’s try and counteract the negativity with some good news/stuff in the second half of this rundown. For example, by the time this goes out, there’ll be a new Björk single available in the wild! That’s always cause for celebration! If nothing else, music is absolutely killing it this year and this is before taking October 21st into consideration!
7] Minions: The Rise of Gru
$3,130,000 / $358,867,065
London Film Festival is shaping up to be a much-needed ocean of quality filmmaking. I’ll be providing coverage in a few places, with any luck, so look out for those in mid-October. One of those will be of the new Cartoon Saloon flick, My Father’s Dragon, a movie I am fully prepared to fistfight people over the right to cover. That is not a joke. I will throwdown on motherfuckers if needs be. Just letting y’all know.
$2,446,000 / $339,962,296
As one wonderful salve in the endless swarm of shit erupting from the Warner Discovery restructuring, Harley Quinn has been renewed for another season. This show is a goddamned gay delight and anybody who tries to take my disaster-bisexual HarlIvy or reformed socialist stepdad Joker or pasta-maker-obsessed Bane away is going right to the top of my extensive enemies list! This deserves the long-term renewal contract that Rick & Morty got, dammit!
9] Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero
$2,405,000 / $34,547,582
Also, in news I somehow missed until this week, the artist professionally known as Christine and the Queens came out as a trans-man a little while ago! Good for him! Nice to see trans people out here living their true selves happily! I could do with way more stories and coverage like that and way less mic time given to Joanne’s sub-Junior School writing-ability-arse.
$2,300,000 / NEW
Case you’re wondering: it’s a 3D IMAX re-release. I think we’re getting a number of those in the next month. Since I’m checking my cynicism for this homestretch, let me instead say that I’m actually really glad a good number of people are gonna get the chance to see these classic movies on the big-screen (hopefully in formats that don’t force 3D into the equation)! Normalise re-running classic cinema at all points of the year rather than desperately trying to shore up anaemic schedule blips!
Dropped out: Three Thousand Years of Longing, Where the Crawdads Sing
Callie Petch is a true doomscroller; they can’t seem to shut it down until the worst is over and it’s never over.