How U.S. Movie Trailer Spending Compares With Pre-Pandemic Levels

US Movie Trailer Spend
Cheyne Gateley/VIP+

The movie business was one of the hardest-hit sectors of the entertainment industry during the pandemic. Only theme parks and live entertainment could rival it for the hit it took, given all three are forms of in-person entertainment.

With the worst of the pandemic seemingly behind us, and the country open for business over the past year, VIP+ has returned to its annual analysis assessing trailer spend on TV, which still remains the broadest way to reach a mass audience even in the age of viewer fragmentation.

According to data from advertising analytics firm iSpot for movie trailers airing between Feb. 28 and June 20 this year and equivalent periods in prior years, trailer spending is up for most weeks versus 2021, seeing increases of between $2M and $6M.

Yet spend still lags behind the pre-pandemic levels seen in 2019 for all weeks other than June 13-20. This hints at a fundamental shift in the business, as several blockbusters have returned this year and the country has been reopened for over a year.

This shift is illustrated when looking at weekly box office totals. While there are three weeks in the year to date where 2022 beats out 2019 (spearheaded by “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Jurassic World Dominion” — all sequels), most weeks see box office gross remain below 2019. At least it is persistently greater than 2021.

Overall box office receipts for the year to date total $3.5 billion, an increase of 281% versus 2021’s $912 million; however, this is 35% below 2019’s $5.4 billion in takings.

But the post-pandemic movie world is different from that of pre-pandemic — far fewer movies are released now weekly. Compared with last year, most weeks have seen more releases, but these figures considerably lag when looking at 2020 pre-COVID (number of releases down by between -34% and -53% each week) and 2019 (down by -50% to -64% for all weeks but one). The movie business may be fundamentally different in the emerging COVID landscape.

One reason for this may be the shift to streaming. HBO Max spearheaded same-day release of movies on an SVOD and in the theater in 2021. While this has shifted to a short delay after an exclusive window in the theater for most studios, it has altered how consumers view content.

In exclusive data fielded for VIP+ by GetWizer, a consumer research agency, a majority of those over 45 and close to half of those 30-44 said they preferred watching new releases at home versus going to the theater.

Leaning into what consumers like is always a wise move for success. This will contribute toward the fundamental shift Hollywood is undergoing — fewer box office releases, more sequels, overall lower gross and lower trailer spend — with consumers often content to wait for big-name movies to turn up on their TVs. Considering these factors, it’s hard to see levels bounce back to rival those of the times before COVID-19.