We Knew 2024 Box Office Would Be Bad. But Not This Bad

Let’s get the worst of it out of the way: We estimate, at best, a $700 million total domestic gross for June, or 30 percent down from last year. We’ll close the month at least 25 percent below the first half of 2023. There’s no mystery as to why: fewer high-impact releases, with last year’s strikes still taking their toll.

June also has three potential breakouts with “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” (Sony) Friday, “Inside Out 2” (Disney) June 14, and “A Quiet Place: Day One” (Paramount) June 28. They also have high expectations which, if met, would go some way to restoring confidence. Fall short and the argument of “Well, this movie was never meant to be a blockbuster” will have run its course.

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Everyone knew that 2024 would not be a great year. It was never going to equal the $9.1 billion of 2023, but $8.5 billion was the hope and $8 billion was the consensus. With at most $3.3 billion anticipated by June 30, optimists might see for $7.5 billion for the year — but lower is more likely.

The summer season will struggle to reach $3 billion, compared to $4 billion last year. We have about the same number of wide releases (26 last year, 25 this year), although 2024 has fewer titles with budgets over $200 million. Since studios know that box office will fall short, it needs another metric to make key decisions about future productions. That’s why breakouts will be key to assuring the industry that things can be better.

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith in Bad Boys: Ride or Die
‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die’Sony Pictures

We need the good signals to cancel out the bad ones. Between December 2021-July 2023, a 20-month period, 14 films had domestic grosses of over $300 million. Since “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” last summer, no movie has hit that mark. Even if the films were lacking compared to their predecessors… not a single one? With fewer films, shouldn’t it mean less competition and greater opportunity?

Tracking has also become unreliable. Projections begin months ahead of releases and usually parallel the tracking that comes down the line, but in the past year we’ve seen repeated shortfalls in the tens of millions. Does that mean the historical models are now failing to reflect consumer behavior?

In May, we projected that the month could gross $750 million, down from 2023’s $800 million. It was $570 million after five films with high expectations (“The Fall Guy,” “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes,” “IF,” “Furiosa,” and “The Garfield Movie”) collectively fell short.

There’s reason to believe that even when better box-office times come, they will not come close to achieving new peaks. (The high was $11.9 billion in 2018, which would be around $14 billion now.) If that’s the case, expect fewer films, less risk-taking, and ultimately a negative impact on already-reeling theaters.

The fourth “Bad Boys” film is the first major non-fantasy action film of the year. It follows the third installment in 2020, which managed over $200 million before COVID hit. In normal times, particularly with little competition, it should do close to $50 million. An X factor is potential damage to the Will Smith brand.

“Inside Out 2” will do better, with a shot at reaching $300 million, but that pales compared to past Pixar performances. “Incredibles 2” grossed (adjusted) over $600 million, more than 50 percent better than the first “Incredibles.” “Inside Out” in 2015 adjusted grossed nearly $400 million.

Are prequels a problem? That’s one excuse offered for the weak “Furiosa” performance. “A Quiet Place: Day One” will be a test, and the first in the franchise not directed by John Krasinski. Those factors suggest it won’t reach the over-$160 million total of its predecessors.

HORIZON: AN AMERICAN SAGA - CHAPTER 1, Kevin Costner, 2024. © Warner Bros. /Courtesy Everett Collection
‘Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1’©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

Before its disappointing Cannes premiere, Kevin Costner’s “Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter 1” (Warner Bros.) had high hopes for its June 28 release. It can’t have much impact on the month’s total, but initial hopes were for a $25 million-$30 million debut.

Also new wide this month are “The Watchers” (WB) this Friday, an Irish-set horror fantasy with Dakota Fanning, and Jeff Nichols’ “The Bikeriders” (Focus) June 21. Both are expected to do $25 million-$35 million for their full runs.

Holdovers and additional openers won’t add a huge amount to the month, which puts more pressure on the new top releases. Last June, they provided $250 million.

At this point, underperformance impacts more than studio decisions. Theater closures continue as National Amusements closed its Bronx New York Grand Concourse Plaza theater. It was one of only two complexes to serve a borough of 1.7 million people. (The landlord says he hopes to find a new operator.)

A steady drip of closings are making theaters more remote for more people — and making home viewing seem like the only reasonable option.

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