Event cinema is coming of age as movie theaters increasingly look to live events and one-night screenings during the Sunday-Thursday corridor.
BTS concert documentary, “Burn the Stage: The Movie,” pulled in a record-setting $18 million in 79 territories at 2,650 movie theaters in three nights for Trafalgar Releasing — including $3.6 million in the U.S.
Peter Jackson’s World War I documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” earned $2.3 million at 1,142 theaters in North America on Dec. 17 — marking the largest single night for a Fathom Events documentary. It will screen again at more than 900 locations on Dec. 27.
Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, said the numbers show that 2018 is a turning point for event cinema.
Fathom — which is jointly owned by AMC, Cinemark and Regal — has seen 18 titles top the $1 million mark in domestic grosses this year. John Rubey, former head of Fathom, said the 2018 Event Cinema business is estimated to generate gross box office of $351 million in 2018 and is expected to grow at 6% annually. About 45% of grosses are coming from Western Europe and another 41% from North America.
“Series events are more successful than one time only events,” Rubey said. “Key brands in Event Cinema content providers include The Metropolitan Opera, Disney’s Newsies, Turner Classic Movies, Floyd Mayweather, Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, Kirk Cameron, CBN Studios, The National Theater Live, The Really Useful Group/Universal, The BBC, The Bolshoi Ballet, BTS (Burn the Stage), Coldplay, Bon Jovi, and One Direction.”
Jamie Woglom, head of North American marketing for London-based Trafalgar, notes that the company has been very much oriented toward worldwide event cinema since its formation last year. Former Picturehouse managing director Lynn Goleby bought out Picturehouse’s distribution assets from Cineworld.
“The basis for our business is that people crave the opportunity to get together,” Woglom said. “We’ll do 24 to 36 releases next year.”
Woglom noted that the K-pop film “Burn the Stage” dethroned “One Direction!” as the top-grossing event cinema of all time and that “Coldplay: A Head Full of Dreams” took in $3.5 million — proving that a cinema release preceding an Amazon Prime release by two days could be successful from a box office perspective. “The King and I: From the London Palladium” took in $2.5 million at the box office and reached the No. 1 spot in the U.K. with more than double the box office of the next film, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.”
“Trafalgar Releasing is currently the #12 largest distributor in the UK (where the headquarters and company were founded) leading all indie distributors, and has catapulted in the US this year from #62 in 2017, to the top 40 in 2018 (#39) with the addition of a US-based team,” Woglom said. “And we have plans to continue expanding in this market in the new year.”
Tom Lucas, Fathom’s vice president of studio relations, said that the outcry over the recent decision by Warner Bros. to shutter the FilmStruck streaming service shows that there’s still plenty of desire by moviegoers to see classic films in theaters.
“We are absolutely looking to cultivate more options for moviegoers,” he said. “We create a lot of added value for the exhibitors.”
Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies recently unveiled 14 classic films that will be shown in theaters in 2019 in the TCM Big Screen Classics series, starting with “The Wizard of Oz” on Jan. 27, 29 and 30. The other titles are “My Fair Lady,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Ben-Hur,” “True Grit,” “Steel Magnolias,” “Field of Dreams,” “Glory,” “Hello, Dolly!,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Alien,” “The Godfather Part II” and “When Harry Met Sally.”
“Every year, more and more film fans have flocked to the TCM Big Screen Classics series, proving the lasting appeal of these movies and the thrill of seeing them in a movie theater,” Lucas said.