It’s Time To Shrink Theatrical Window To 30 Days

Currently 7 out of the top 20 movies are making money at the box office after 4 weeks of release

The current theatrical window is around 90 days. Look above at the current number of week new movies have been playing in the top 10 via Box Office Mojo. As of last weekend (10/11/2019) 7 of the top 20 movies with screening are making money.

The average number of movies people see in the US is 3-4 movies per year

I haven’t done a deep statistical analysis of the numbers, but it looks from casual observation that most movies drop somewhere between 30-60% in sales from week to week. Sure, there are some films that perform outside this window, so if we consider a movie opens with 20 million and has 50% loss of revenue the first four weeks, here would be the hypothetical performance:

Week #1: 20 million
Week #2: 10 million
Week #3: 5 million
Week #4: 2.5 million
= 37.5 million

Now if the theatrical window was reduced to four weeks, as being proposed, and streaming were allowed then what would be the impact if the theater continued to show the same movie? Would the dropoff increase to 60-70%? Or would it stay about the same roughly 50% dropoff?

That’s one question. The bigger question is how many movies even make it past the first four weeks still having screenings? 45 more movies out of the bottom 65 listed for a total of 52 out of 85 (61%) continue to have screenings beyond four weeks. What is the total revenue for the bottom 65 compared to the top 20? Movies ranked 21-85 only make $20 million versus the top 20 movies make $120 million.

The data is obvious: the top 20 movies make the most money and the freshest movies in release time make the most money. So, the amount of money a movie makes decays drastically — except in a small, few movies (like Lion King that has continued to make money over a couple months) — over the course of the first few weeks. After a month, the money most movies make from the box office is minimal.

While most sources we spoke to agree that a day-and-date release strategy is simply too drastic of a jump from this current system, they do think a three-to-four-week-after-release model could become a reality in the near future.

Will Hollywood Ever Allow Us to Stream New Theatrical Releases at Home? | Observer

My wife and I really aren’t the average moviegoers. At least not since August 2019. I’ve seen over 31 movies in the last two months. That’s almost ten times the number of movies the average moviegoer in the US sees in a year. Prior to becoming Regal Unlimited Members, I still saw over 25 movies in the theater in 2018, which is still way more than the average of 3-4 movies per year.

We love seeing movies in the theater. I enjoy the movie theater experience and do not want to see it go away. I do want to see it evolve and change with the times. Waiting 90 days to stream movies doesn’t make any financial or logical sense any more. I’m going to see the movie the first four weeks, so it matters none to me personally whether or not the theatrical window is reduced, but it will allow people who don’t go to the movies very often to see a movie while there is still buzz through streaming.

Will some moviegoers wait for the streaming instead of going to the movie theater? This is Hollywood’s fear. I doubt the numbers will be significant. The people who want to see the movie as soon as it is released will still go to the theater. As long as there is some theatrical window — and I’m not advocating for same day in theater release to streaming — because I think that would hurt the movie theater traffic.

What do YOU think? Keep the theatrical window the way it already is (90 days)? Reduce to 30 days? Reduce to some other number of days? Or just leave it the way it is?


12 thoughts on “It’s Time To Shrink Theatrical Window To 30 Days

  1. I don’t know. This one is hard to assess because it also has to do with data that we don’t have access to (theatre revenue and specific distribution agreements). Maybe for a movie studio a film is not “profitable” beyond 30 days, but as I understand it, theatres get more money per ticket the longer the movie remains in distribution.

    For first-run highly popular titles, studios can keep up to 90% of the ticket price in the first week of release, leaving the theatre with a meagre 10% per ticket. If the ticket costs, as an example, $10, that leaves $1 for theatres (and they’re happy with these agreements because a multitude of people will storm theatres and buy popcorn and hot dogs, which are their main source of revenue).

    As time goes on, revenues per ticket will increase up to a point where the tables have turned. It’s no longer the studio who takes most of the money, but the theatre chain. After two months, for instance, they can still exhibit a title at a discounted price and pocket 90% of the ticket price. While on first week of release they were making $1 per ticket, now they can make $5-6 or more. And still sell popcorn.

    Some people are patient enough for this. They still get to see their favourite movies on the big scree but at a discounted price. What’s not to like about that? I think that’s why they guard the window so closely (and remember that in the past it was 180 days). Imagine exhibiting a title 5 months after release, charge $10 for a double-feature and pocket 100% of the money.

    Obviously this is a generalisation, but I think the broad point is true.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great points. I’ve heard the same as you that the longer the movie is in the theater the more the theater makes money on the ticket price, but it’s also a case of foot traffic. Is the volume there to justify the screening? Maybe they would make more money, as I proposed in the video, bringing in older movies on anniversaries to watch where they can share from the get-go in a higher % of the ticket price?

    There is a bunch of showings of movie times right now that could be distributed over more movies vs. more convenience times. I would rather have a wider selection of movies to see vs. fewer movies more times, but that’s just me. Maybe others prefer more times so they can find the absolutely best time to attend. There isn’t much difference between 7,7:30,8, 8:30 screening times, but some movies are shown like that to increase the number of overall screenings. Again, tentpole movies, big budget movies, I get the idea of more screenings, but there comes a point where a wider selection of movies might actually draw in more moviegoers. What do you think?

    I realize this is kind of getting away from the topic of reducing the theatrical window, but it’s along the same lines and related.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True. I would prefer variety of titles rather than screening times (The Lion King, on opening week, had 42 screenings a day in one theatre! Just one theatre!).

      I think for the big theatre chains it all must work out on an aggregate level, rather than by title.

      One interesting thing is that, at least publicly, big studios seem to be okay with the current window. Even after the release of their streaming service Disney+, Disney has said that they will continue to honour the 90-day window.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. By the way, I just read a report saying that Disney will keep ALL of their current windows before releasing for Disney+. That means, 90 days in cinemas, then digital, then 2-3 weeks after digital, home disc. Finally, 120 days after home video, it will reach streaming. So the whole journey from cinemas to streaming could take up to 7 months.

      Meanwhile, Netflix panics if it takes more than 30 days (which is an eternity for them). Different companies. Different strategies.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They are saying that now, yes. I think we revisit this in a year after they’ve run their own service (Disney+) for a year and see if they are singing the same song. Since they are so big, they are sort of wind that will move trees. Wouldn’t surprise me if they held their ground, though. Will definitely be interesting to see what happens in a year.


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