In the ever-shifting landscape of the film industry, 2023 has left an indelible mark, revealing resilience through unexpected turns. A film about a plastic doll and a biographical thriller about an atomic bomb generating one of the largest opening weekends in movie history? Truly unforeseen. Cinema this year has seen a
whirlwind of unprecedented shifts, challenges, and breakthroughs.
At the core of these shifts lies the most important takeaway – their impact on the trajectory of movie exhibition. From the changing dynamics of the industry to the ripple effects felt by movie theaters, we’re exploring all of the lessons learned in cinema this year.
Lesson One: Group moviegoing isn't dead!
The industry witnessed a notable surge in the popularity of group moviegoing experiences, catalyzed by the unexpected tandem of Barbie and Oppenheimer. These two films, starkly contrasting in theme, became a focal point of online discussions, drawing audiences to a unique cinematic experiment – watching two polar-opposite films consecutively. The result was a surge in communal movie attendance, with groups of friends and movie enthusiasts flocking to theaters for a shared experience.
The trend of dressing up added to the excitement of the occasion, turning the movies into vibrant social affairs. This phenomenon, dubbed as “Barbenheimer'' emerged as one of the most exhilarating events in cinema since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This event proves that with strategic adaptations, theaters can thrive in an era where streaming from home has become prevalent. Theaters embraced the trend with food and beverage specials, photo-worthy decorations, costume contests, and more.
Lesson Two: Cinemas will prevail, even during a strike
The echo of the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) and SAG-AFTRA strikes an uneasy reverberation throughout the film industry, triggering a temporary halt of productions, and resulting in a shuffling of release schedules with many titles being pushed back to 2024. Actors and writers united in a four-month battle for their rights within the industry and in a show of solidarity, many patrons refrained from attending movies. In response, theaters demonstrated adaptability by diversifying their offerings, hosting special events and live shows featuring comedy acts, magic performances, and local entertainers.
To fill the void left by delayed releases, theaters strategically populated their calendars with screenings of past hits. Furthermore, theaters sought to leverage their spaces for buyouts, transforming venues for holiday parties, corporate events, birthdays, and more. Read this article for additional ways to transform your theater’s space to maximize its potential.
Lesson Three: Concert films rule
The resurgence of concert films emerged as a monumental trend, catalyzed by Taylor Swift's groundbreaking The Eras Tour Concert Film. The film soared to become the highest-grossing concert film of all time, amassing a staggering $178 million domestically. The trend continued with Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé, securing its place among the top-grossing concert films with a $21 million opening weekend gross.
Similar to the cultural phenomenon of "Barbenheimer," these concert films transcended typical movie experiences, becoming celebrations in their own right. Theaters rose to the occasion with immersive cinema activations—featuring bracelet-making stations, specialty drinks, photo booths, and engaging challenges—to enhance the overall experience.
Lesson Four: Diverse and inclusive storytelling can bring in big audiences
Inclusive and diverse storytelling has proven to attract broad audiences. While theaters may face constraints in terms of the titles they can screen, their influence on programming remains significant. By campaigning for films that embrace diverse perspectives and narratives, theaters can contribute to fostering a more inclusive cinema landscape, but also tap into the market demand for authentic storytelling. Examples from 2023 include Are You There God? It's me, Margaret., Joy Ride, and Next Goal Wins. These were smaller releases that generated a positive reception among niche audiences.
Lesson Five: Influencer marketing is on the rise
Leveraging social media influencers has emerged as a potent strategy to amplify reach, generate buzz, and ultimately boost ticket sales. Collaborating with influencers provides movie theaters with a direct line to a targeted audience, as influencers hold sway over followers who trust their recommendations. Theaters can collaborate with influencers to promote upcoming titles, concessional and promotional items, food and beverage offerings, special events, and more.
2023 has been a year of noteworthy changes in the movie industry. From the unexpected success of group moviegoing and concert films, to the temporary setbacks of the writer's and actor's strikes, it is clear that the landscape has shifted. Nonetheless, theaters have adapted and will continue to drive the industry into 2024. 🎉
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