'Wicked' spectacles, merger gossip and movie industry woes at CinemaCon 2024

Christi Carras, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Movie theaters need more movies. Will they ever get enough to truly thrive again?

That was the central question overhanging CinemaCon 2024, the annual convention bringing together Hollywood studios and multiplex operators in Las Vegas this week.

Exhibitors pleaded with the major studios to release more films of varying budgets on the big screen, while studios made the case that their upcoming slates are robust enough to keep them in business.

Once again, CinemaCon, where studios trot out executives and movie stars to pitch their upcoming blockbusters, arrived at a particularly challenging time for the film industry.

After weathering a devastating pandemic that shut down theaters for months, two of the most essential parts of the Hollywood machine, writers and actors, went on strike. The work stoppages — which lasted a combined six months — prompted the leading entertainment companies to push a number of titles to 2025 from 2024, disrupting the supply chain and sparking widespread anxiety in the exhibition community.

Box-office revenue in the U.S. and Canada is expected to total about $8.5 billion, which is down from $9 billion in 2023 and a far cry from the pre-pandemic yearly tallies that nearly reached $12 billion.


"It's not enough for us to simply sit back and want more movies," said Michael O'Leary, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, during Tuesday's state-of-the-industry address at the Colosseum in Caesars Palace. "We must work with distribution to get more movies of all sizes to the marketplace."

Though a fuller release schedule is expected for 2025, talk of budget cuts, greater industry consolidation and corporate mergers has forced exhibitors to prepare for the possibility of a near future with fewer studios making fewer movies.

In the extravagant banquet and trade show halls of Caesars Palace, theater operators groaned about 2024 being painted as yet another "lost year" for cinema — determined in spite of the grim discourse to remain optimistic.

"All indications are the rest of the year is going to be a lot better," said David Fetters, vice president of West Mall Theatres in Minnesota and South Dakota. "The product we're seeing here is looking outstanding."


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