Movie theater sales results have been mixed so far in the 2023 summer blockbuster season

Movie theater chains have entered the 2023 summer blockbuster season with a lineup of big-budget titles such as The Little Mermaid, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, and Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. Our analysis of U.S. consumer spending data at three major movie theater chains—AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc (NYSE: AMC), Cinemark Holdings Inc (NYSE: CNK), and Cineworld Group plc—found that, despite these high profile premieres, movie theater sales results in the 2023 summer blockbuster season have been mixed so far. Additionally, zooming in on AMC Entertainment Holdings, Bloomberg Second Measure’s data shows that in recent weeks, the company has seen its sales per customer grow faster than its customer counts, reversing the trend seen earlier in the year.

U.S. sales growth at Cinemark (NYSE: CNK) was higher than other major movie theater chains in early June 2023

Bloomberg Second Measure’s transaction data shows that all companies in our analysis saw a year-over-year decrease in their U.S. movie theater sales during the opening week of the summer blockbuster season in 2023 (defined here as the week ending on May 28th). More specifically, Cineworld’s sales were down 25 percent year-over-year, AMC’s sales were down 11 percent, and Cinemark’s sales were down 4 percent.

U.S. movie theater sales at AMC, Cinemark and Cineworld

The 2023 summer blockbuster season (defined here as the period between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend) opened with the highly anticipated premiere of Walt Disney’s The Little Mermaid.. While the movie grossed $117.5 million in the U.S. during its opening weekend and had one of the best debuts for a film over the Memorial Day weekend, it did not surpass the results of last year’s Memorial Day weekend headliner. In 2022, Top Gun: Maverick grossed $160 million in the U.S. during its opening weekend, setting an all-time record for a movie debuting during Memorial Day weekend.

During the second week of the 2023 summer blockbuster season, Cinemark experienced a 4 percent year-over-year increase in sales. AMC’s movie theater sales also slightly increased by 1 percent year-over-year. Meanwhile Cineworld saw its sales down 11 percent year-over-year in the same week. Notably, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse premiered that week, grossing $120.5 million in its U.S. box office debut.

Over the subsequent three weeks of June, Cinemark experienced an average weekly sales decline of 12 percent year-over-year, while AMC saw an average weekly decline of 24 percent year-over-year, and Cineworld saw its weekly sales decline, on average, 31 percent year-over-year. Among the highest grossing premieres over that period were Transformers: Rise of the Beasts and The Flash, with opening weekend U.S. market grosses of $60.5 million and $55 million, respectively. In comparison, the highest grossing premiere of the corresponding period in 2022, Jurassic World Dominion, earned $143.3 million in its U.S. opening weekend. 

The mixed sales results among movie theater chains at the beginning of the 2023 summer blockbuster season have been in contrast with the first half of Q2 2023. In the earlier part of Q2, the movie theater competitors in our analysis generally saw their weekly U.S. sales grow year-over-year. The biggest sales growth over that period occurred in the week ending April 9, 2023, with Cinemark’s weekly sales up 84 percent year-over-year, Cineworld’s weekly sales up 77 percent year-over-year, and AMC’s weekly sales rising 72 percent year-over-year. That sales growth was likely driven by the premiere of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, which debuted in the U.S. on April 5 and grossed an estimated $146 million domestically in its opening weekend. 

AMC’s (NYSE: AMC) U.S. per-customer spending growth outpaced its customer growth in the early weeks of the 2023 summer blockbuster season

Looking at U.S. customer counts and average per-customer spending at AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc ahead of its FY23 Q2 earnings call, transaction data shows that the year-over-year growth rate for sales per customer has outpaced the year-over-year growth rate for customer counts at AMC in the early weeks of the 2023 summer blockbuster season.

YoY Growth in U.S. Customer Counts and Sales Per Customer at AMC Entertainment Holdings

AMC’s average sales per customer grew year-over-year during 4 out 5 weeks between the weeks ending on May 28, 2023 and on June 25, 2023, while customer counts declined during all weeks in that period. 

This shift in growth trends is notable since the growth in customer counts outpaced the growth in the average per-customer spending for most weeks between January and May of 2023. During that period, AMC experienced double-digit growth in customer counts most weeks, while its average sales per customer grew at a single-digit pace. 

Notably, during AMC’s FY23 Q1 earnings call, company executives noted that its sales growth is “being fueled by consumers choosing premium large format screens [such as IMAX] and driving up average ticket prices.” Furthermore, food and beverage spending per patron is “far above pre-pandemic consumption” and represents a “very high-margin business.”

Aside from the increased spending for food and beverage and premium screens, another factor that could impact per-customer spending is the introduction of a tiered-pricing system called Sightline earlier in 2023. The new system charges moviegoers different prices based on their seating choice and is expected to be rolled out in all AMC theaters by the end of the year.

It is worth noting that our analysis defines a person as an individual customer if they made at least one purchase at a movie theater over the analyzed period, regardless of the number of tickets purchased. Additionally, this analysis excludes customer counts from and reservations made through the Stubs A-List program, which allows moviegoers to pay a monthly fee and see up to three movies per week at AMC movie theaters. 

Will any of the upcoming premieres steal the show during the remainder of the 2023 blockbuster season?

Despite the mixed results seen so far for AMC and its peers, there are still several premieres that might boost U.S. movie theater sales later in the 2023 blockbuster season. These include well-known entertainment franchises like Barbie and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as well as new installments of cinematic classics such as Indiana Jones and Mission Impossible. The summer blockbuster season in 2023 will also see the premiere of Gran Turismo, a movie adaptation of the popular racing simulation video game series, and Blue Beetle, a superhero film centered around the DC Comics character.

Bloomberg Second Measure launched a new and exclusive transaction dataset in July 2022. Our data continues to be broadly representative of U.S. consumers. As a result of this panel change, however, we recommend using only the latest post in assessing metrics, and do not support referring to historical blog posts to infer period-over-period comparisons.

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