Summer Box Office Preview: The Movies Are Back, But Not Enough of Them

While there will be some huge hits in the coming months, only 35 wide releases will hit the big screen

The 2022 summer box office should be another big step on the road to recovery for movie theaters with several big blockbusters performing like COVID-19 isn’t a thing. But the biggest obstacle isn’t the quality, but the quantity.

According to Comscore, only 35 films between the first weekend of May and Labor Day weekend — the traditional definition of the summer film season — are slated for wide release. By comparison, 37 films were released last year in at least 1,000 locations in 2021, and 45 films were released in 1,000+ screens in 2018 and 2019, when summer grosses topped $4.3 billion.

At CinemaCon, National Association of Theater Owners President and CEO John Fithian chalked this up to lingering production delays caused by the pandemic. With a backlog of productions that started before the worldwide shutdown combining with new productions trying to get underway, many key elements of filming and postproduction such as soundstages and visual effects houses are in short supply, overloaded by studio demand.

“It’s probably going to take the rest of the year to get through the bottlenecks slowing down production, but this summer is already a sign of the progress that our studio partners have made in increasing the number of titles we have to show in cinemas,” Fithian said. “We have told everyone that we as an industry are back, and this summer will be when everyone starts to truly see it.”

But for now, it’s unlikely that the summer will yield the $4 billion-plus domestic total that the industry was used to seeing prior to the pandemic. However, it’s likely that summer 2022 will do better than the $1.75 billion seen last year, because there are still plenty of heavyweights on the slate.

The first, of course, is “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” a Marvel film set to open to a $170 million-plus launch this weekend with a strong chance of topping $400 million on the domestic side and $1 billion worldwide. Fellow MCU title “Thor: Love & Thunder” (opening July 8) should also bring a big midsummer jolt as Taika Waititi’s last “Thor” film opened to $122 million in 2017, while Universal’s “Jurassic World: Dominion” (June 10) will also have a strong chance at a $100 million-plus opener.

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Jeremy Fuster

Box Office Reporter • jeremy.fuster@thewrap.com • Twitter: @jeremyfuster