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Movie theaters back on track thanks to ‘Top Gun,’ ‘Jurrassic World’ – Orlando Sentinel

It has been a whirlwind summer at the box office. After a tepid start to the year had movie theater owners nervous about a post-COVID recovery, audiences turned out in droves this summer to see the latest tentpoles from Marvel, Universal and more.

Joe DeMarsh, owner of Epic Theaters, said this summer exceeded expectations for the local chain, which has locations in Clermont, Mount Dora and Orlando. “People are returning to movie theaters and enjoying big screen experiences again. We have seen similar foot traffic to 2019 pre-pandemic levels. We did expect the summer to perform well because we had quality movies that people were excited to come out and see, [but] we did have times where we were busier than expected.”

DeMarsh highlighted strong runs from “Jurassic World: Dominion”, “Minions: The Rise of Gru” and “Thor: Love and Thunder” as key titles specifically driving audiences back to movie theaters. However, it was the runaway success of “Top Gun: Maverick” (which has made over a billion dollars at the box office and is now the ninth-highest grossing movie of all time) that has been driving a lot of the increased foot traffic at Epic theaters, with DeMarsh saying he was surprised to see how many customers were coming back to the theater to watch it multiple times.

This assessment echoes recent comments from Cinemark CFO Melissa Thomas, who said the success of “Top Gun: Maverick” specifically was critical for their chain’s recovery, adding that the long-awaited sequel “brought back some of our core audiences — older audiences and females —which is what we had hoped for.” Thomas went on to say the chain’s in-house analysis showed more than 25% of customers who came to see “Top Gun: Maverick” had not visited a Cinemark theater in the past year, a big sign the sequel was helping make audiences feel comfortable with the idea of ​​visiting movie theaters again in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interestingly, a rep for Cinemark also noted much of this summer’s box office increase at the chain has also come from increased demand for large-format screens as sales for Cinemark’s XD-branded screens are currently outperforming pre-COVID levels.

Similarly, large format exhibitor IMAX revealed Thursday that ticket sales for its screens (which include Central Florida’s Regal Pointe Orlando and Cinépolis Polk County) in June outpaced the same period in 2019, and are on par with the second quarter overall. “IMAX is playing a leading role in the global resurgence in moviegoing,” said Richard L. Gelfond, CEO of IMAX Corporation in a press release, adding “Consumers continue to seek out IMAX as a destination for fandom.”

Another big change that helped turn the tide for movie theaters this summer was a more consistent release schedule. “[A] key element to this summer’s success is that we had at least one new movie featured each weekend, so there was always something new and exciting to see,” said Luis Olloqui, chief executive officer of Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas. Olloqui also cited the wide variety of different genres of films available at the multiplex as another driving force that helped movie theaters recover over the summer.

As of right now, national box office estimates for 2022 are approaching $5 billion overall according to Box Office Pro, far ahead of 2020 and 2021, but still trailing 2019′s total box office gross at the same point in the year.

And while many exhibitors are tepid about falling box office numbers, which are historically soft as kids go back to school and prestige films hit multiplexes in advance of awards season, the end of the year could give theaters another big boost. “We anticipate repeat visitors after the summer who have enjoyed an immersive experience at any of our [Cinépolis] locations,” said Olloqui, adding “We expect some momentum from the summer to carry into the fall, and it’s going to be a great end of the year, especially with the debut of ‘Black Panther 2′ and ‘Avatar 2′.”

Though the last two years have been incredibly tough for movie theaters, especially in Central Florida, this summer has given multiplexes a big boost, and proves that even as streaming continues to increase budgets to compete directly with movie theaters for consumer time and money, demand to see films in cinemas is still very much alive and well in 2022.

Want to reach out? Email me at akondolojy@orlandosentinel.com. For more fun things, follow @fun.things.orlando on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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