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Streaming experiment ‘failed’ as box office claws back from pandemic lows : IMAX CEO

IMAX (IMAX) CEO Richard Gelfond is more bullish than ever on the theatrical experience.

The executive told Yahoo Finance Live on Monday he believes the box office will reach pre-pandemic levels “probably later this year or next year,” adding companies like Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN) have helped buoy sentiment amid their recently announced theatrical-first strategies.

“The narrative to go right to streaming has been thrown away. That experiment just didn’t work. It failed,” Gelfond said.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported Apple plans to spend $1 billion a year to produce movies that will be released in theaters. Similarly, Amazon formulated plans to invest $1 billion to produce 12 to 15 movies a year exclusively for theaters, Bloomberg reported in November. Amazon closed its $8.5 billion deal to acquire MGM early last year.

“Theatrical has lost some movies, because the mid-level movies are going to streaming, but they’re [also] gaining movies now from streaming,” Gelfond said, referencing theatrical-first films like Amazon’s “Air” and Apple TV+’s “Napoleon.” “I think that’ll fill in that gap.”

The US box office, still reeling from the pandemic, has yet to see ticket sales bounce back to pre-pandemic levels — but it’s getting closer amid blockbuster showings from films like “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Creed III,” and “John Wick: Chapter 3.”

Most recently, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” smashed expectations, securing more than $1 billion globally to become the first film of 2023 to surpass that milestone. It’s also the highest

“People are really upbeat about the slate,” Gelfond said, referencing the slew of buzzy titles still to come this summer, which includes Disney’s (DIS) “The Little Mermaid” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” in addition to Warner Bros.’ (WBD) “Barbie” and “The Flash.”

“The only movie big movie [in April] was ‘Mario,’ but our box office is still more than double compared to last year,” Gelfond said.

According to the latest data from Comscore, total domestic box office grosses have hit about $2.40 billion so far this year, just 16% below 2019’s $2.85 billion over that same time period.

For context, the 2022 domestic box office brought in an estimated $7.5 billion, representing a roughly 70% year-over-year increase but still 30% below pre-pandemic levels, when total North American ticket sales hit $11 billion.

“We had our biggest signing in the U.S. in a decade that we announced as part of our quarter,” he said, revealing the company signed agreements for 63 systems worldwide through April, more than the entirety of 2022. Those signed agreements helped drive sales activity in the quarter as IMAX delivered its best first quarter results of all time.

“We’re starting to see positive signs,” he said. Finanace.Yahoo

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