Cinemark Sees the Future in Nontraditional Films Like Taylor Swift’s ‘Eras Tour’

CEO Sean Gamble says the success of movies like “Sound of Freedom” accounted for nearly 14% of Cinemark’s Q3 domestic box office

Taylor Swift performs "All Too Well" during "The Eras Tour" (AMC)

Taylor Swift blew the doors open for more artists to bring their live tours to the movies, Cinemark CEO Sean Gamble said Friday.

Nontraditional content accounted for almost 14% of Cinemark’s domestic box office results in the third quarter, and represents a significant growth opportunity for the movie theater industry, Gamble said during the company’s conference call to discuss third quarter results, which saw a 35% surge in revenue year over year to $874.8 million.

The fourth quarter looks equally promising of nontraditional titles, kicked of by Swift’s record-breaking phenomenon “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” movie and with the film version of the other mega-tour of the summer, Beyonce’s “Renaissance,” hitting the theaters Dec. 1.

“Alternative content, nontraditional content has always showed tremendous promise and it was frustrating that it never seemed to really get going,” Gamble said. Concert films, faith-based films, anime and multicultural titles from Bollywood and beyond have always represented a small portion of overall box office — 1% to 2% of revenue, Gamble said — but “we’re starting to see some momentum now really build.”

“We’ve actually seen hints of promise with concert films for quite some time, with BTS and Coldplay and Billie Eilish and Metallica,” he said, “But those have largely been released on a very limited scale. And I think Taylor just blew the door off the place with the huge success that she just had with her ‘Eras Tour,’” he said.

Gamble gushed that the film “was phenomenal for fans in terms of having access and being able to relive the moment of that tour,” stating that it was “like having a front row seat at the concert.”

“If you’re a music artist and you saw that, I don’t see how you could not want to do that going forward, both to give your fans that opportunity and also just to extend the value of these tours that they’ve poured so much time and effort into.”

It’s not only concert films that present promise for future growth.

“Sound of Freedom” was another summer box office hit, building on the draw of “Jesus Revolution” in the first quarter to gross $184 million domestically, and faith-based films provide more opportunity. “I certainly do think that we could continue to see more and more success here,” Gamble said. “We’ve had some huge results.”

Documentaries like “After Death,” are also pulling in solid audiences, and a “steady flow” of multicultural content from Indian and other South Asian titles are likewise boosting box office, Gamble said.

Latin American production, on the other hand, has not recovered post-pandemic yet.

“One area that still is definitely lagging has been local production,” Gamble said in response to a question about Brazilian films in the pipeline. “We’ve seen that in some of the other countries as well. That has been slower to come back than here in the U.S. In Hollywood, the studios have been working to replenish their backlog of films and get overall volume back to where it was pre-pandemic. It’s been a slower slogging internationally throughout Latin America.”

“We’re starting to see some signs of beefing up,” he said. “We know that particular to Brazil, there’s focus on trying to breathe some more life into local production activity. It’s something that even the government is focused on down there. So that could lead to a resurgence of those types of films in the not too distant future.”

Gamble said the major studios are watching the growth in nontraditional titles with interest. “I do think that our studio partners recognize that,” he said. “We’ve generally seen them sustain their diverse offerings, and as we continue to see a lot of those types of films work, we think it’s just going to continue to encourage them to put more of that out.”

Year to date for Cinemark, he said nontraditional films are tracking to represent about 10% of box office.

“Part of that is just based on overall recovery of volume. So we think as more traditional films recover that may go down a bit, but we could certainly see this starting to get to a place where we’re looking at 5%, maybe a little bit more, of overall box office over the years.”

But for now, the numbers could remain above those projections, particularly since the outlook for more traditional theatrical releases is murky going into 2024 because of the production disruptions brought on by the Hollywood strikes, he said.


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