Jake Bloom, the fearsome talent lawyer who retired a few years back, used to refer to this time of year as “premiere season.” It was a great line, casually defining May and June as the months for splashy debuts of the movies that, financially speaking, actually matter—and, implicitly, placing his own clients at the center of those movies. There might be film events all year long, he was saying, but the blockbusters that his stars made—the Schwarzeneggers, the Stallones, the Bruckheimers, the Depps—those movies premiered in early summer, before he and everyone else who mattered took off for their places in Sun Valley.
Premiere season is back, I guess, or at least 2022 Hollywood is doing its best to will the return of big summer spectacles back into existence. Something about a nearly 60-year-old Tom Cruise landing a helicopter onto an aircraft carrier yesterday to plug Top Gun: Maverick feels both totally comforting and totally desperate. Is this STILL the best we’ve got? But other than Marvel, it seems so. We’re 25 months into the Great Box Office Reset, as Exhibitor Relations calls it, and domestic numbers in the first quarter came in at just 56 percent of 2019. Even with hits like The Batman, Uncharted and a big chunk of Spider-Man: No Way Home, there just weren’t enough releases—or people interested in seeing them.
Yet now everyone is talking about whether the summer box office is officially “back.” OK… The trades seem downright giddy, and B. Riley, the analyst firm, put out a report last week suggesting that consumer sentiment is building. By the end of the year, they predict, overall grosses will hit 80 percent of the $11 billion earned in 2019, and will return essentially to normal in 2023. That’s a big lift from 56 percent.