Cinemark CEO Sees Amazon’s ‘Air’ Jumpstarting Streamers In Cinemas With Solid Window; Upbeat On 100+ Wide Releases For 2023
Amazon’s upcoming wide release of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Nike movie Air exclusively in theaters in April “could represent the start of a substantive move into theatrical exhibition by streaming companies,” said Sean Gamble, chief executive of nation’s third-largest movie chain.
Amazon last month releaves plans to give Air a wide theatrical release April 5, the streamer’s first wide release since Mindy Kaling’s Late Night in the summer of 2019. It provided the pic with a nice opening Super Bowl ad. Content from streamers could help boost a wide release slate that badly needs boosting to over 100 films this year or beyond, creeping back to the average 130 releases pre-Covid.
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“All of our traditional studio partners are insisting that theatrical is a better way of creating value,” Gamble said on a call after quarterly earnings. Movies with a theatrical window are more lucrative “and end up being better value for streaming platforms,” he said, noting that testing in its theaters bears that out. A shift in strategy, expressed by all major media congloms and highlighted again this earnings season, also reflects Wall Street’s newfound commitment to punish them for chasing streaming subscriber growth at all costs.
Amazon hasn’t indicated a window yet but it’s “directionally” starting at 45 days, Gamble said. “I’m not sure it’s public and it may not have been fully decided [but] we know that directionally that’s where its starting.”
It “depends on how well it holds” but “that seems to be the direction they’re heading on their films, what they are indicating, what they are telling us, and what we are hearing from other streamers, like Apple.”
Overall, “things are gelling for a 45-day window for the more commercial films. You need a certain amount of of run time to generate the benefits that a theatrical release can give a film.”
Air unveils the game-changing partnership between then-rookie Michael Jordan and Nike’s fledgling basketball division, which revolutionized the world of sports and contemporary culture with the Air Jordan brand. Damon plays maverick Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro and Affleck is Nike co-founder Phil Knight.
Despite solid progress for the full year 2022, Cinemark said fewer releases in the fourth quarter in particular and some underperformers knocked its revenue down by 10% to about $600 million. It swung to a net loss of $99 million from a profit of $5.7 million the year earlier – or EPS of negative 82 cents vs positive 5 cents. Avatar: The Way of Water hit December 18 and has helped to buoy the current first quarter.
The higher volume 2023 release sked still has gaps, notably in late summer and early fall and Gamble invited studios to consider fleshing that out.
The sked, “At least on paper now has some similarities to 2022, more volume, but there is a little bit of a lull when you get into that late summer-early fall period.” That’s always been softer, “but movies also do really well in that period,” he noted. “There is opportunity there. What we suspect might happen is that studios might see that and there certainly is the potential for some shifting around of dates.”
“For new films, if you are thinking of where to date your content, there’s a great opportunity within that window to do that.”
Noteworthy this current quarter, Cinemark founder Lee Roy Mitchell, 85, stepped down from Cinemark’s board following an influential tenure spanning nearly 40 years. Mitchell and his wife Tandy founded Cinemark in 1984 and grew it to a global company with nearly 6,000 screens across 16 countries. Mitchell served as CEO through 2006. His son Kevin Mitchell, 54, succeeds him as a Mitchell board designee.
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