That sums up the lineup at the box office in October — a vital month for the movie theater industry since it relit its marquees earlier this year, following months of closures because of the pandemic.
October has never been a month known for blockbusters. It was usually a dead zone between the lucrative summer movie season and the critically-acclaimed awards fare of the holidays.
This year is different.
Not only is October uncharacteristically jam-packed with major films, but this month could also say a lot about the short- and long-term future of the movie theater business as it approaches 2022 and beyond.
“There has never been a more important October in Hollywood’s history,” Jeff Bock, senior analyst at entertainment research firm Exhibitor Relations, told CNN Business. “Mostly because October is traditionally filled with minor thrills and chills of the horror variety, whereas this year, it’s chock full of big-budget cinematic treats.”
Bock mentioned that “In theaters, it’s starting to feel like summer all over again.”
“Music to the ears of every cinema owner”
The month kicks off Friday with Sony’s supervillain film, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” a follow-up to the 2018 blockbuster “Venom.”
Then on October 8, Daniel Craig’s swansong as James Bond opens in the highly anticipated, and often delayed, “No Time to Die” for MGM.
Next up, another of cinema’s most well-known brands hits theaters on October 15 with Universal’s “Halloween Kills,” the latest sequel in the Michael Myers horror franchise.
The month wraps up with Warner Bros.’ Sci-Fi epic “Dune” starring an all-star cast led by Timothée Chalamet. (Warner Bros., like CNN, is owned by WarnerMedia.)
The four films mentioned above will point the way to prosperity or disaster for Hollywood.
“Barring unforeseen developments, the industry is positioned for a very good month,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com, told CNN Business. “Strong content will, on paper, be released on a near-weekly basis from here on, and many of the key releases on the calendar will be exclusive to theaters.”
He added, “that’s music to the ears of every cinema owner.”
Endless Summer or a long Winter?
Two big films this month — “Venom” and “No Time to Die” — will open exclusively in theaters while the two other potential blockbusters (“Halloween” and “Dune”) are being released in theaters and on streaming simultaneously. Audiences will experience Hollywood’s new hybrid model in action, and studios will see what audiences prefer.
To Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore (SCOR), the fact that October has two big films go exclusive to theaters and two going hybrid is evidence that “the industry has packed perhaps 10 years of evolution into the past 18 months.”
“Clearly, the pandemic caused the rule book to be thrown out the window and forced studios to get creative with their release strategies,” he told CNN Business. “And we are seeing, in real-time, the results of these various release models.”
The movie theater industry is also well positioned since it’s coming off a hot end of the summer. Films that were exclusive to theaters like “Free Guy,” “Candyman” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” all did well at the box office. “Dear Evan Hansen,” a musical based on the Broadway show, didn’t do so well last weekend.
“The industry is in a hopeful place thanks to those exclusive films, despite operating in the wake of a pandemically-challenged summer season that brought in revenues roughly half that of a traditional summer,” Dergarabedian added.
The other important factor of this October is that it can be a bridge to 2022.
If the month brings in big or even just solid numbers, that can build momentum for the end of this year and into next.
“It’s going to be a great month of movie-going, of that there is no doubt. The films lined up between now and the end of the year are precisely the tonic Tinseltown needs,” Bock said. “However, if Covid variants take hold, then the industry could be in for a long winter.”