This Week on The Boxoffice Podcast: Pacific Arclight Closes Permanently, a New Round of Studio Delays, Can Demon Slayer Surprise at the Box Office?

Image Courtesy of Arclight Cinemas

On this week’s edition of The Boxoffice Podcast, co-hosts Russ Fischer, Daniel Loria, Rebecca Pahle, and Shawn Robbins go over a busy week of news for the movie theater industry. 

Shawn goes over the latest figures for Warner Bros.’ Godzilla vs. Kong, which has already become the highest-grossing film released during the pandemic. Rebecca summarizes the latest round of release date changes from major studios, with Shawn providing analysis on the resulting impact those changes may have on the summer box office. The panel also provides insights on what could be a surprising box office debut for Demon Slayer the Movie: Infinite Train, which broke box office records in its Japanese release despite being released during the pandemic.

In our final segment, Russ Fischer shares his views on how the permanent closure of all Pacific and Arclight locations will affect the Los Angeles and Southern California exhibition scene, along with analysis on why talk of a potential acquisition may be premature at this stage.

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Highlights from this week’s episode:

REBECCA PAHLE on Top Gun: Maverick moving to November

The story that we’ve seen in terms of box office over the last few months is that the recovery is a slower, more laborious process than we anticipated. With markets closing and reopening, both domestically and abroad, and with Black Widow coming out on July 9, Paramount does not want a title like Top Gun: Maverick to have a week-long runway at the box office before Black Widow comes in and takes premium screens and some of its box office potential. You have to space out these big earners and get them away from other films that could potentially cannibalize their market share. 

SHAWN ROBBINS on the likelihood of an additional round of delays for major films scheduled to release in the summer.

I think we can still safely anticipate some more moves throughout the summer. At this point, this is really just becoming another example of how much of a risk-averse business this is. Within days of seeing Godzilla vs. Kong do the business that it’s been doing–which is still well below what it could do but way above what has been the case before in the pandemic–studios are still waiting for the most optimal time to release that they can, knowing that it’s going to be a while before the world is anywhere near 100 percent theatrically. What this might suggest is that studios are thinking that summer, especially the first half if not most of it, could end up being a one event film per month type of slate. Maybe two as we get into the back parts of August.

DANIEL LORIA on the box office potential of Demon Slayer

We’ve seen a lot of anime titles go through event cinema distributors in the past, which signals two things: it’s a bit more popular appeal than a foreign or film festival title, meaning it can get to that multiplex in the center of the country, but it’s probably not big enough to get into the radar of a major studio to allocate significant money behind it after acquiring it. There’s definitely a role that these anime imports play in the market but, at this point, it’s still a niche in the big picture.

RUSS FISCHER on the permanent closure of all Pacific and Arclight locations

It’s a huge deal and it’s a huge loss. The company operates a variety of theaters across Los Angeles, including the Hollywood Arclight, which is attached to and also operates the Cinerama Dome, that is not necessarily the heart of the Los Angeles film scene but it’s kind of a hub. If you like going to movies in Los Angeles, you go to the Arclight with friends at least a couple times a year, if not significantly more often. They do a lot of events, they’re well known for having Q&A’s and guests, you often have filmmakers who show up unannounced to talk about their movies or introduce their movies, they’ve got a good bar and a restaurant, the whole thing. It’s just one of those places that you went to; if you like movies in LA, you go to the Arclight. That’s just the way it is. It’s maybe not your favorite theater, but it is one of the constants. Losing that represents a huge cultural change in the landscape for film in Los Angeles. 

Associated with that are the Pacific branded theaters at open air malls and those are also very well trafficked theaters that attract a different demographic spectrum than Arclight does. You get a lot more casual moviegoers going there. It’s also a big deal to lose those houses. It’s a huge blow. I think anyone who likes movies in LA was stunned when the word came down that those theaters were not going to reopen because everybody has a positive association with them in some way. 

DANIEL LORIA on consolidation in the domestic movie theater industry.

We have all, from day one of understanding the scope of this crisis, have been expecting there to be consolidation in the US market. We’ve been prepared for it and understood that mid-sized circuits, specifically ones that aren’t publicly traded and aren’t eligible for Save Our Screens government grants, those are the ones most at risk during this period. Unfortunately, today that’s Pacific Arclight. That doesn’t mean that those screens are all going to be dark forever, but that also doesn’t mean there are a lot of investors out there anxiously waiting to pour money into movie theaters while we are still in a pandemic.

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