How Sony and Paramount saved the cash register

Movie theaters have taken advantage of a few unlikely heroes.

Sony and Paramount, once written off as too-rans in the battle for ticket buyers, have recently been flexing their muscles at the box office with a wide variety of offers. The two studios are responsible for seven of the top 10 highest-grossing films of 2022 and currently represent more than 46% of all domestic revenues, according to Comscore. This is a marked turnaround from a year ago: Right now in 2021, Paramount and Sony accounted for about 5% of domestic revenues.

Analysts say Paramount and Sony are adept at planning their movies as the company recovers from COVID-19. With rivals like Disney, Warner Bros. and Universal choosing to postpone many of their big tent poles until the summer or the holidays, the two studios pushed many of their top titles into the first half of the year. Sony’s blockbuster success with “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” continued late last year with the video game adaptation “Uncharted”, while Paramount recently found fame with films like “Sonic the hedgehog 2”. ‘ and ‘The Lost City’.

“Those two companies have been the saviors of moviegoers over the past five months,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “They stuck to a strategy to release their films exclusively in theaters, and they kept both films in theaters for a long time. They didn’t just stream them a few weeks later.”

In addition, the titles Sony and Paramount produced span a range of genres. Pointing to the horror reboot “Scream” and the family-friendly “Sonic,” Chris Aronson, Paramount’s head of domestic distribution, says, “We were aiming for an audience we thought we could get.” He adds: “The bigger guess was ‘The Lost City’, as it was mainly aimed at older women. Research showed that the group had been reluctant [to attend theaters]and we let them go.”

Tom Holland in ‘Uncharted’, which grossed $389 million worldwide.
Sony Pictures/Everett Collection

Pandemic or not, Sony and Paramount are seen as opponents of Disney, Warner Bros. and Universal, all of which boast huge franchise libraries and are part of much larger media conglomerates. But as the company recovers from COVID-19, Sony and Paramount have “certainly benefited from timing,” said Eric Handler, an analyst at MKM Partners. “A lot of movies were pushed back into 2022, when ommicron was a big deal. That meant there wasn’t as much competition. They were able to take advantage of the fact that people really crave entertainment outside of the home.”

When the credits roll in 2022, Disney will likely keep its box office crown in 2022, thanks to upcoming blockbuster hopefuls like “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” and the “Toy Story” spin-off. off “Light year.” And Universal will benefit from the debut of sequels to the “Jurassic Park” and “Minions” franchises. But Paramount still has “Top Gun: Maverick” waiting to land in May, while Sony could get a lift from Brad Pitt starrer “Bullet Train” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse: Part 1”.

“When studios start putting out movies and believing in them, audiences will come,” said Josh Greenstein, president of Sony’s Motion Picture Group. “I’m very optimistic about all studios this summer. You’re going to see a big revival.”

Any lasting cinema revival will depend on convincing the public that watching blockbusters is on the couch So last year. (After all, many of 2021’s biggest movies premiered around the clock on streaming services.) Expect extensive promotional efforts to remind people that highly anticipated titles are being played “in theaters only.”

“The days of just relying on TV spots are over,” says Greenstein, “Movies need full 360… [marketing] campaigns. People consume an enormous amount of entertainment, and there is so much more ground to cover.”

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