This summer’s crop of sequels and superhero films may struggle to eclipse last year’s record-breaking stream of blockbusters, Regal Entertainment Group CEO Amy Miles and CFO David Ownby said Monday at the JP Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference.
Currently, the domestic box office is up 6 percent compared with last year, but many box office analysts believe that this year’s films will have a hard time matching the massive grosses of “Iron Man 3” (pictured), “Despicable Me 2” and “Man of Steel.”
“I don’t think it would surprise us if we give back some of that lead in the next month or so,” Ownby said.
For her part, Miles took a longer approach to gauging the overall health of the exhibition business, noting that even if 2014 fails to outstrip last year’s high-water mark, the next two years will bring sequels to “The Avengers,” “Star Wars,” James Bond and the Batman vs. Superman movie.
“It’s really hard not to be excited from a box office perspective when you look further into 2015 and 2016,” she said.
Indeed, the movie industry is enjoying an era of good feeling, Miles said, after enduring some turbulent times. Theater owners and studios clashed in recent years over attempts to shrink the window between a film’s theatrical release and its home entertainment debut from the standard 90 days. Boycott threats by theater owners and bad blood bubbled up, but things have been relatively quiet of late. Miles said the idea of shorter windows is not currently being discussed and money, it seems, is a great palliative for any lingering animosity.
“In periods of great box office, we seem to get along really well,” she said.
Regal’s leaders indicated they saw future opportunities for growth by renovating theaters and outfitting them with premium seating and specialty formats such as 3D and IMAX. Plans are underway to convert 25 theaters to luxury seating, 175 of Regal’s locations will offer snazzier concessions, eventually there will be 89 IMAX theaters and Regal’s own, in-house wide-screen format, RPX will be available in 85 locations. That’s to say nothing of fermented attractions. Regal could offer alcoholic beverages in as many as 100 locations, up from roughly 30 theaters today, Miles predicted.
It’s all part of a “focus on how do we improve that premium experience for our customers,” she explained.
Regal’s efforts to grow its business may lead to more mergers and acquisitions, particularly now that credit markets have recovered from the financial crisis, the executives said. Last week, Carmike Cinemas announced that it had reached an agreement to buy Digiplex. Ownby indicated that Regal is very much a buyer, particularly as some smaller circuits look to exit the business before film is abandoned entirely for digital distribution and premium theaters become the rule, not the exception.
“We think we’ll see good opportunities over the longer term to consolidate the industry,” Ownby said.