NEW YORK (AP) — The movies are clawing their way back in theaters, but, so far, not everyone is showing up like they used to.
While certain segments of moviegoers are closer to pre-pandemic levels, older moviegoers and family audiences have been slower to return. That’s shrunk already narrow opportunities for non-franchise films to find audiences. Well before the pandemic, superheroes and spectacles were already a bigger and bigger slice of the box-office pie. Right now, they’re closer to the whole meal.
David A. Gross, who runs the movie consultancy Franchise Entertainment, estimates that while superhero films are back to about 75% of pre-pandemic levels, adult character-driven genres are down 66% to 75% from normal, and family films are at least than 50% off. That can naturally be attributed to COVID-19 concerns. Older ticket buyers are more likely to be cautious about the virus. Vaccines are only just rolling out for those under 12.
But if the trend is more than temporary, it wouldn’t be a surprise to those who have long forecast that the theatrical movie — once the most powerful pop-culture juggernaut on the planet — has split into two increasingly separate camps: Blockbuster and boutique.
“It’s a little early to make long-term projections. But the trend was already in place where blockbusters were making up a bigger part of the box office. Like other things that were in place, the pandemic accelerated some of those trends,” says Rich Gelfond, chief executive of IMAX. “When people go out, they want something that’s more special. People got used to watching different kinds of content on their couches.”