Austin Butler in “Elvis. ”
Warner Bros.
  • Theatrical industry leaders and box-office experts are enthusiastic about the release slate this year.
  • They cited a number of potential blockbusters and surprise hits which could help revive the box office.
  • These people include “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Elvis. ”

Movie-theater leaders have reason to be optimistic   about the state of their business after two years of disruption.

During last week’s exhibition conference CinemaCon, Hollywood studios voiced their commitment to theatrical releases plus highlighted their slates associated with upcoming movies.

A new survey of 2, 200 US adults from the insights firm Morning Consult, published on Wednesday, also showed that comfort with going to theaters rose to 62% , a pandemic-era high.

Theaters aren’t out of the woods yet, though. The US box office is still well below pre-pandemic levels (but is up 338% compared in order to this time last year, when theatrical releases were largely nonexistent, according to Comscore).

And US adults still rank “day-and-date” releases — as in, films coming to movies building and streaming services at the same time — as their own preferred launch model, according to another Morning Consult survey released on Friday (industry frontrunners would push back that moviegoers , as opposed to general audiences, would prefer exclusive theatrical releases).

Throughout the pandemic, Hollywood studios experimented with day-and-date strategies. Warner Bros. released its entire 2021 slate in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously. Other galleries did the same with select blockbusters, like Disney’s “Black Widow. ”

A studio exec, who wished to remain anonymous, noted that audiences had been “trained” during the outbreak to know when a movie will be available to stream, which could impact package office.

But theatrical market leaders are convinced that day-and-date will be “dead as a serious business model, ” in accordance to John Fithian, the CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners.

“That doesn’t mean that there won’t be distributors that will toy occasionally with that concept, inch Fithian told Insider. “But from what we are usually hearing from your studios, they are focused on their slate of movies that are intended for theaters with an exclusive window. ”

The coming months will be a strong indicator associated with whether the theatrical industry can overcome these obstacles and ride the year’s early momentum. The summer movie season is packed with wannabe blockbusters like Universal’s “Jurassic World: Dominion” and potential surprise hits like Warner Bros. ‘ “Elvis. ”

“It’s challenging to say things will be back to so-called normal across the board, but this summer certainly looks the closest the industry’s been to it since 2019, ” said Shawn Robbins, the Box Office Pro chief analyst.

Below are the top movies that experts say could help revitalize the box office this year:

Marvel movies including the “Doctor Strange” sequel

doctor strange in the multiverse of madness

Benedict Cumberbatch in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. ”
Marvel Studios

Marvel has become the most reliable brand in theaters, and this year sees the release of three sequels: “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” this weekend, “Thor: Love and Thunder” in July, and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” in November.

“Doctor Strange” is already looking like a hit, earning $36 million in Thursday previews, almost on par with “Avengers: Infinity War, ” which earned $39 million. Shawn Robbins, the Box Office Pro chief analyst, said the target for the weekend is around $190 million.

“Top Gun: Maverick” — May 27

top gun maverick

Tom Cruise in “Top Gun: Maverick. ”
Paramount Pictures

A lot is riding on “Top Gun: Maverick, ” which could bring out the over-50 crowd that has been the slowest demographic to return to theaters. If it overperforms, it could be a turning point in theaters’ comeback story.

The good news: the movie played in full to the audience at CinemaCon, and the crowd loved it. Early buzz is strong, which is vital for any movie competing for consumers’ dollars in the theatrical market right now.

“If I had to choose one movie, I’d say it’s that one that could really break through with a consumer base we want back, ” said Rolando Rodriguez, the CEO of Marcus Theatres and chairman from the National Association of Theatre Owners.

Shawn Robbins, the Box Office Pro chief analyst, is forecasting the movie to open in the US with anywhere from $95 million to $125 million over its first weekend.

“Lightyear” — June 17 / “Minions: The Rise of Gru” — July 1

Buzz Lightyear in a blue shirt

“Lightyear. ”

While children and families have been slow to return to theaters, there have been recent signs of life with “Sing 2, ” which earned $162 million in the US, and “The Bad Guys, ” which recently grossed a healthy $24 million in its opening weekend.

Disney’s “Lightyear” and Universal’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru” will be the strongest indicators yet of whether families are ready to return to cinemas in droves. “Sonic the Hedgehog 2, ” which has grossed $163 million in america so far, is another example, though a large portion of its audience was adult males.

“‘Lightyear’ and ‘Minions’ will benefit by the trail blazed by ‘Sing 2, ‘ ‘Sonic 2, ‘ and ‘The Bad Guys, ‘” said Paul Dergarabedian, the Comscore media analyst. “Both films have enormously positive brand equity. ”

“Jurassic World: Dominion” — June 10

jurassic world dominion

Chris Pratt in “Jurassic World: Dominion. ”

Bruce Nash, who founded the box-office research website The Numbers , told Insider that his model predicts “Jurassic World: Dominion” to be the “most guaranteed blockbuster of the year. ”

The Numbers’ prediction model takes into account a movie’s genre, filmmakers and stars, whether it’s part of a franchise, and social-media engagement.

“The ‘Jurassic World’ movies have posted huge opening weekends [in the US] and there’s no reason to suspect that’s not going to happen with ‘Dominion, ‘” Nash said. “And those are films that have a very broad four-quadrant appeal. ”

The first two movies, “Jurassic World” and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, ” both grossed over $1 billion worldwide.

A theatrical industry source, who wished to remain anonymous, said that “Dominion” could do the same, especially if it gets into China, where the first two movies earned $228 million and $261 million, respectively.

Jeff Sneider reported for The Ankler this week that the China Film Administration has approved film production company, but it does not have a release date yet. That last bit could be troubling — “Spider-Man: No Way Home, ” for instance, was approved for release in China, but has yet to debut there.

“Elvis” — June 24


Austin Butler in “Elvis. ”
Warner Bros.

Bruce Nash, The Numbers founder, said that his prediction model projects “Elvis” to spread out with $12 million in the US. It seems low, but he said it’s a “perfectly respectable number” for that movie.

He compared it to the musical “The Greatest Showman, ” which opened to an underwhelming $13 million, but had strong legs throughout its theatrical run. It ultimately made $174 million in america and $436 million globally, off of an $84 million production budget.

Paul Dergarabedian, the Comscore media analyst, called it the “perfect hybrid movie” that could sway both older and younger audiences to the theater.

“I think Elvis will be a big surprise, ” said Mooky Greidinger, the CEO from the Cineworld theater chain. “I hear good buzz around it. ”

“Avatar: The Way of Water” — December 16


“Avatar. ”
20th Century Fox

James Cameron’s 2009 hit “Avatar” is the highest-grossing movie of all time, with $2. 8 billion global. So expectations are high for its long-awaited sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water. ”

Theatrical industry leaders are enthusiastic about its potential, as Cameron is toying having a number of different versions of the movie, from Imax to 3D to high-frame rate.

“Avatar 2 will be, technologically, the movie that offers the most choices for consumers, ” John Fithian, the CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, said.  

He added: “They’re making more versions of this movie than have ever been made before. That shows off the great range of technological experiences and visual experiences that you can have in cinemas that you can never get at home. That’s part of our comeback story, too. ”

Original stories could make a comeback, too.

Florence Pugh in a dress

Florence Pugh in “Don’t Worry Darling. ”
Warner Bros. /New Line Cinema

It’s not just the franchise blockbusters that this theatrical industry is exited about, even though those are the dominant force at the box office.

Industry leaders and experts Insider spoke to cited numerous original movies that have potential to bring audiences to theaters, including:  

  • “Get Out” director Jordan Peele’s latest horror film, “Nope” — July 22
  • “Booksmart” director Olivia Wilde’s psychological thriller, “Don’t Worry Darling” — September 23
  • Billy Eichner’s romantic comedy “Bros, ” which stars an all-LGBTQ cast — September 30
  • “La Land” director Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon, ” which stars Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie — December 25

“Peele is one of the few directors whose name alone is enough to drive moviegoers to theaters, ” Paul Dergarabedian, the Comscore media analyst, said of “Nope. ” “He is a star and a brand unto himself. A very rare combination. ”

Shawn Robbins, the Office Pro chief analyst, said that these movies “could stand out for consumers looking for more variety in between the major blockbusters and comic-book flicks. ”

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