The really unfortunate thing is that this is not at all surprising. Having three movies in a single weekend puts a lot of light on things, with Sony, Lionsgate and Briarcliff all taking a big hit to the wallet at the same time, but it’s not like this was an isolated incident. Case in point: There isn’t a single original film in the global box office top ten for 2023 so far (with “Pathaan” at number 12). 2022 wasn’t much better, with China’s “Water Gage Bridge” the only prototype in the top ten. In North America? Nothing original appears on the list until “Bullet Train” at number 18. Nothing above that except sequels, adaptations, reboots, etc.
This trend had accelerated before the pandemic, but closing theaters for a year and having very few new films attracting audiences for months afterward didn’t help matters. Now, people are largely content to wait until movies arrive at home, with exclusive theatrical windows shrinking as a result of the pandemic. Unfortunately, a movie like “Kandahar” still needs to sell tickets to justify its existence – especially since many streamers have started to tighten their strings.
As we saw with Warner Bros. Discovery relative to Max, direct streaming movies are becoming less common as they are hard to justify from a dollars and cents perspective. If it doesn’t at least make some sense in theaters, the movie has less chance of being made at all, unless it’s made for next to nothing. Sure, some movies can be made on a shoestring budget. But a mid-budget action flick anchored by Gerard Butler? It’s not on paper as much as it used to be. A star-driven comedy? Similarly hard to do for less than $15-20 million.
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