August 9, 2023
People rediscovered theatergoing with BARBIE. Will there be follow-through? 

We went to see it. Maybe you did too. It seems we can't stop talking about BARBIE. 


That's what happens when a movie grosses $1B. On the domestic side, it's about to reach $500M, and it looks poised to top THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE ($574M) as the highest-grossing film of the year. When a film makes that kind of money, there's clearly a sizable and varied audience.


At the Quorum, we wanted to take a closer look at who bought a ticket for BARBIE. Specifically, we wanted to know if the film was successful in bringing reluctant filmgoers back to the theater.


Over the past three weeks, we surveyed 1,800 people who went to the theater to see BARBIE. First, we asked how they would describe their theater-going habits. As you can see below, 46% self-identified as someone who goes to the theater "all the time." Another 32% said they go "every now and again." 

It's especially exciting to see that 22% of people who bought a ticket for BARBIE said they couldn't recall the last film they saw in a theater, or it was the first film they've seen in a theater since the pandemic.


That is a very compelling statistic. Especially when we grab the back of a napkin and do some math. BARBIE is up to $450M at the box office. If the average ticket price is $11, then roughly 41 million tickets were sold. If we take 22% of that, then about 9 million people returned to the theater to see BARBIE.  


But there's more. We wanted to know how these people felt about their return to theaters. Among this subset of ticket buyers, 40% said the experience reminded them how much they love going to the movies, and that they would go more often. Another 45% said they would go more often, but that cost is an issue. Only 15% said this was a one-off experience. It would take another BARBIE-like film to get them to go back. The question also featured an open-ended "other" option, which few people used. 

As we discuss the legacy of BARBIE, part of that conversation has to be its ability to bring people back into the fold. We know that a sizable group of people went to the movies before the pandemic and have not returned since. Without them, it will be tough for theatrical to reach the box office heights of pre-Covid. 


Not only was BARBIE successful in bringing these people off the sidelines, but we can also see in the data that it may have changed some behaviors. Many of the respondents are ready to resume going to the theater. It's now up to us to ensure that there are movies for them to see and that these audiences are embraced in the marketing campaigns. 


But here's the rub. At this exact moment – when people feel good about going to the theater – there's little product in the market. And if the two Hollywood labor strikes linger on, it will only get worse.


Consider this. There is only one wide release from a major studio, THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER, scheduled for the entire month of October. KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON arrives on October 6th, but it opens in limited release and then expands two weeks later. And there's FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY's, but that film is getting a day-and-date release on Peacock. Smaller distributors are filling the gaps, but that's it among the majors.


Things are so bad that no wide releases are scheduled for October 6th, one of the most coveted weekends of the year.


There are much larger forces at play in determining when these strikes will end, but for the sake of theatrical, we hope it's soon. It would be a shame to ruin this moment when there is so much goodwill toward going to the theater.

October 6th: A Closer Look

When KRAVEN THE HUNTER was pushed off the October 6th date to 2024, it left a hole in the release schedule. 

A decade ago, Warner Bros. reinvented the first weekend in October by releasing GRAVITY on October 4th. Everyone expected the tentpole to land in the summer or the end-of-year holidays, but the studio opted for the first frame in October, a previously unremarkable weekend.

The film opened to $56M, breaking the record for the largest October opening. From there, a weekend was born. Suddenly, the first weekend in October became one of the most coveted dates of the year.

Two years later, THE MARTIAN opened to $54M. VENOM broke the record again with an $80M debut in 2018. JOKER established a new high-water mark a year later with $96M, while VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE became the second title to open above $90M.

In fact, back in 2018, A STAR IS BORN debuted to $43M, opposite VENOM. That’s a combined $123M between the two of them. So yes, this is a big weekend.


Last year no one expected LYLE, LYLE, CROCODILE to match the previous historical highs, but the 2022 release schedule was catch-as-catch-can. There weren’t enough movies, so it was easy to temporarily set aside prior distribution and performance norms.


There’s reason to believe that October 6th will remain abandoned this year. As noted above, Paramount has KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON opening in limited release on that date, with an anticipated expansion two weeks later. But should MOON move up and either open wide on the 6th or expand wide on that weekend?


That’s not necessarily a bad idea, except as it stands now, no other wide releases are scheduled for October 20th, when MOON is currently expected to go wide. So there’s no big incentive to move earlier, especially amid two strikes that are limiting promotion.


But this speaks to a larger problem that we thought was in our rear-view mirror. Once again, there is a dearth of new films. And it will be especially acute in October.

New On Tracking
With A QUIET PLACE: DAY ONE, a universe is born. Next March, audiences will get a spin-off prequel to one of the most successful horror franchises of the past five years. The original film made $188M domestically and was the highest grossing horror film of 2018.
The sequel, A QUIET PLACE PART II, made $160M right smack in the middle of a pandemic and was the 9th highest grossing film of 2021.
It seems reasonable to think that DAY ONE will do just as well even if creator John Krasinski is no longer at the helm, though he is still on board as a producer. 

As expected, DAY ONE arrives on tracking with pretty solid numbers. The average opening weekend for horror films is $16.5M, and DAY ONE is tracking well above those averages. Awareness is already at 30% (versus 18% for the group average), and interest is at 45% (versus 38% for the group average). 

No mystery here. DAY ONE should be just fine.  

Also New On Tracking:
Grading This Week's Posters
Each week, we poll the general public and ask them to grade new movie posters from A+ ("makes me want to see this movie") to F ("doesn't make me want to see this movie"). Here's how they graded this week's new posters. 
Movers and Shakers

BOB MARLEY: ONE LOVE doesn't arrive until January, but there are some signs that it could find an audience. 


Interest in the film sits at 46%. That's pretty good. Of the 52 films currently being tracked by The Quorum, MARLEY ranks 12th in interest. 


That puts it in the same neighborhood as films like KUNG FU PANDA 4 and THE HUNGER GAMES: BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES. 


MARLEY is one to watch. If tracking continues at this level, it could be a January winner for Paramount. 

In Focus:
Projected Opening Weekend:  $22M - $27M

THE EXPENDABLES has been a solid franchise for Lionsgate. They're not cheap, but they travel. Each has made considerably more overseas than domestically.


EXPEND4BLES (yes, it's the 4th one) is a return to form of sorts. The first two were rated R. The third one, however, was PG-13. It also opened to only $16M, about half of the first two. 


This installment is R-rated, which will hopefully deliver the film an opening in the $30M ballpark of the first two. Tracking suggests it's got a shot.


At six weeks out, The Quorum is forecasting an opening weekend between $22M and $27M. 

The Box Office Universe (BOU) - Expend4bles
September, October R-rated action films (2013-2022)

What is the Box Office Universe (BOU)? It is a list of historical comp titles based on various factors, including the month of release, rating, genre, theater count, etc. The variables used in selecting the BOU can change from film to film. The BOU provides context on where the subject film might perform at the high and low end of the box office. It's also helpful in identifying the sweet spot where most of these films perform. 

Interested in projections for other titles? Email hello@thequorum.com to learn more.
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The Quorum.

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