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Theatrical Windows Keep Shrinking: The 2023 Average Is Now 30 Days

"The Super Mario Bros Movie" bucked the trend and made it to 41 days.
THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE, from left: Princess Peach (voice: Anya Taylor-Joy), Mario (voice: Chris Pratt), 2023. © Universal Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection
"The Super Mario Bros. Movie"
©Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

After 41 days in theaters and over $518 million in domestic box office, Universal’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” will debut May 16 on PVOD. For a record-breaking blockbuster that could be the year’s biggest hit, that might seem… premature.

At the same point in its trajectory, “Top Gun: Maverick” had grossed $575 million and wouldn’t arrive on PVOD (for sale) for another 98 days. However, by Universal’s standards the release of “SMB” is 10 days late. Under the studio’s agreement with exhibitors, films that open over $50 million can move to home availability after 31 days.

“SMB” represents a trend: The period of theatrical exclusivity continues to shrink. With 22 wide releases to date in 2023, the average window stands at 30 days. When we looked at the average in mid-February across a six-month period, the window was 35 days.

With the ongoing WGA strike and DGA negotiations beginning, questions around streaming value remain a major issue. We know that a $19.99 transaction sends about 70 percent back to a studio — a bigger percentage than the highest film rental earned in theaters (anywhere from 45-60 percent). Electronic sell-through (aka EST, or digital sales) is part of the WGA agenda, but to the best of our knowledge, VOD rental income is not part of existing shared residuals. If “SMB” were to see 5 million PVOD rentals at $19.99 (actual price TBD, but it’s listed for sale at $29.99), that would bring $70 million to Universal.

The range of theatrical windows remains wide. Five films held the theatrical window over 45 days, including Disney’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” and Lionsgate’s “John Wick: Chapter 4,” an outlier at 60 days. However, 11 of the titles were available in less than three weeks.

EVIL DEAD RISE, Alyssa Sutherland, 2023. © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection
“Evil Dead Rise”©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

“Shazam: Fury of the Gods”: 21 Days

At last month’s Cinemacon, WBD CEO David Zaslav received a lot of attention for making a rousing speech in support of theaters. “We believe in full windowing,” he told exhibitors to great applause. In practice, DC Comics’ “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” had a 21-day window before its PVOD debut. It will debut on Max May 23, more than 60 days after it opened.

“Evil Dead Rise”: 18 Days

Warner Bros. Discovery’s continuation of the Sam Raimi horror series, modestly budgeted under $20 million, has been a sleeper hit with $54 million U.S./Canada through Sunday. It made its PVOD debut Tuesday. Horror films do particularly well on home platforms (similarly, Sony moved to PVOD after three weekends with “The Pope’s Exorcist”). Warner Bros. Discovery’s continuation of the Sam Raimi horror series, modestly budgeted under $20 million, has been a sleeper hit with $54 million U.S./Canada through Sunday. It made its PVOD debut Tuesday. WBD previously signaled that some lower-budget films initially planned for HBO Max (“House Party,” “Magic Mike’s Last Dance”) would have shorter theatrical windows.

Horror films do particularly well on home platforms (similarly, Sony moved to PVOD after three weekends with “The Pope’s Exorcist”). 

“John Wick: Chapter 4”: 60 Days

Lionsgate’s biggest current franchise saw its best result in its fourth installment with $180 million domestic. It will debut on PVOD May 23, 60 days after its release. The studio’s sleeper success, “Jesus Revolution,” had a 46-day window, while “Operation Fortune: Russe de Guerre” and “The Covenant” each saw 18-day windows.

Air

Air“: Direct to Streaming

The Amazon Studios production distributed by (Amazon-owned) MGM will debut on Prime (free for subscribers) May 12. That’s 44 days after its theatrical debut. Amazon kept to its commitment for a legitimate window before streaming. However, Amazon is skipping PVOD — at least for the moment. That is unheard of for any studio release these days, much less one that grossed over $50 million.

Bottom line: Amazon’s commitment to theaters boosted awareness of Ben Affleck’s film and likely made its exclusive presence on Prime more valuable. (Of course, Netflix’s releases never had VOD play.)

MGM’s”Creed III,” a much bigger hit than “Air,” went to PVOD after 28 days. It has yet to stream.

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