The summer movie season is upon us once again.
And this year, the season, which runs from the first weekend in May through Labor Day, is the most important one for the film industry, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore Inc. in Sherman Oaks.
That’s because it is going to signal what the future holds for every succeeding summer movie season, he said.
“June looks like a really huge month to me,” Dergarabedian added. “That may be the biggest story of the summer once we get into June and have a few more big openings under our belt.”
This year, the summer movie season kicked off on May 6 with Marvel’s “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” which brought in $187 million in domestic box office receipts in its opening weekend. Marvel is owned byBurbank-based The Walt Disney Co.
“In fact, ‘Dr. Strange’ earned more in its opening weekend than the entire summer earned in 2020,” Dergarabedian said. “And that was mostly drive-ins generating that $176.4 million.”
Next up on the release schedule is “Top Gun: Maverick,” which comes out over Memorial Day weekend.
“I saw ‘Top Gun’ at CinemaCon,” Dergarabedian said. “It is the perfect Memorial weekend movie.”
Paramount Pictures, the title’s distributor, was going to release the film almost three years ago, in July 2019. Then it was delayed because of post-production issues and delayed again because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Paramount could have put the movie out on a streaming service, Dergarabedian said, adding, “but it would not have done it justice.”
In June, there comes to theaters “Jurassic World Dominion” the latest in the dinosaur franchise distributed by Universal Pictures, in Universal City; the Pixar prequel “Lightyear,” about the adventures of the square-jawed astronaut from the “Toy Story” franchise; and “Elvis,” from director Baz Luhrmann. Dergarabedian called it a key movie for the summer season.
“It will appeal to both mature and younger audiences because of the visual style and the era in which Elvis is being spotlighted, which is his younger days, and Baz Luhrmann working his magic,” he said.
In July comes the second Marvel film, “Thor: Love and Thunder” along with Warner Bros. Pictures’ “DC League of Super-Pets,” followed by Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock in the comedy-thriller “Bullet Train” in August.
“Not only does this lineup of films show that the summer is back, but it is showing that it’s back because the studios have confidence in the marketplace,” Dergarabedian said. “If you cannot get people in the theater with this lineup, I don’t know what else will work.”
The X-factor in all this is inflation.
“It just means the allure of these movies, the marketing, has to be so powerful that people will say, ‘Well, it costs $6 a gallon to fill up my car, it costs me more to do everything, but I have to see ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ so I am going to devote my hard-earned dollars to that,’” Dergarabedian said.
With the exceptions of 2017, 2020 and 2021, every year since 2007 has seen summer box office totals top $4 billion. On average, about 40 percent of the total domestic box office – defined as theaters in the U.S. and Canada – comes from the 18 weeks of the summer season.
With the return of a traditional summer movie schedule, the question is, how high does the box office get? Dergarabedian asked.
“Is $4 billion even in the cards? We don’t know yet,” he said. “That would be a big ask considering where we were last year ($1.7 billion). But if we get anywhere close to double of last year, if we wind up over $3 billion, that would be a great summer for this marketplace.”