Summerbanter: Hollywood vs. box office, Disney’s release shuffle, Golden Globes’ big change

Written by Anna Buss

Illustration by Gabby Quarante/KCRW

With summer underway, Hollywood is hoping that big tentpole movies will get to a $4 billion gross by the end of the season. That could be a sign that movies have truly recovered from the pandemic downturn and audiences are back. Will the big summer box office the studios are expecting materialize? Plus, Disney shuffles its calendar, delaying release dates for its “Avatar” and “Avengers” franchises. And The Golden Globes undergoes a mystifying change. 

This segment has been edited for length and clarity. 

Summer box office: A mixed bag

Kim Masters: After a promising start with the [“The Super Mario Bros. Movie”] movie, we are looking at potentially a much less promising turn of events. 

Matt Belloni: It’s been interesting because some of these movies that were tipped as the early summer favorites to do a $1 billion in theaters are pretty clearly not going to do a $1 billion. Even “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” which I think is a success at $8-900 million, that's less than the early summer Marvel movie from last year, “Dr. Strange 2.” 

And then we have these other movies like [“Fast X”], which is doing fine overseas, but it's really sputtering in the US, and then “The Little Mermaid,” which is doing fine in the US, but it's really sputtering overseas. So it's been sort of a mixed bag of movies, and we've got some big hitters coming out in the next couple of weeks in “The Flash” and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” and I think the jury's really out as to whether movies are back.

Masters: They're back to a degree, but the tracking on some of those big movies is not so great. I know a number of people in the business who feel like “The Flash” will underperform. Of course, it has had a lot of baggage with Ezra Miller's issues, and I actually think that does not help this movie at all. Yes, “Indiana Jones” still looking on the soft side.

Has Pixar lost its mojo?

Masters: “Elemental” is a Pixar movie tracking in the [$30 million range opening weekend]. That's scary.

Belloni: That's like “The Good Dinosaur” territory, which was the last Pixar movie to really flop like that on opening weekend. Even “Lightyear” last year, which really underperformed, had a much bigger opening weekend. 

And that gets to the question of whether, coming out of the pandemic, there is an audience for original animation in theaters, because the animation success stories we have seen this past year, “Spider Man” and “Super Mario Brothers” are both existing franchises that people already knew. The entire Pixar model has been to do some sequels, but also to do these original films that can then create new franchises for Pixar. If those movies don't open in theaters, it's really hard to justify $200 million costs on those films.

Masters: Some people say [former Disney CEO] Bob Chapek did damage by putting all of these movies on streaming too quickly during the pandemic. Some people might say that Pixar has lost some of its mojo, and maybe another answer is that the world is changing. So it's a problem for Disney to figure out. 

More: Disney lost $1.5 billion under Bob Chapek. They’re now betting on Bob Iger

Too many releases, not enough IMAX to go around

Belloni: The big thing this summer is that we have movies one after another. It used to be that the theatrical market could expand in the summer to support blockbuster after blockbuster on these successive weekends. We're just not sure yet if, post-pandemic, that's going to be the case. 

“Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” opened to a big $61 million this past weekend, but we'll see how that holds when it's got competition like “Flash” and “Indiana Jones” in the same marketplace. 

So much of it is also these premium, large format screens that everybody is battling over. The IMAX screens, the Dolby, the RealD, those can add significantly to the box office, but there's a limited number of them, and in the summer, everybody's fighting over those.

Masters: You have written about how Tom Cruise has been frustrated because “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” is a movie made to be on that kind of screen, and Universal has Hoovered a bunch of them up with “Oppenheimer.”

Belloni: Not just a bunch — they Hoovered all of them. Christopher Nolan got a three-week commitment from IMAX to do all of the IMAX screens for his movie. He shot the film in IMAX. He's sort of an unofficial brand ambassador for them, and that annoyed Tom Cruise. So he's been calling around town trying to get as many of those premium, large-format screens that are not IMAX committed to “Mission Impossible.”

Masters: It will be interesting to see what happens with Christopher Nolan's movie. There were a lot of bidders for the movie that he is releasing. It's an R-rated movie. At least it's an original. But really, it's long, and I know he negotiated this incredibly long exclusive theatrical window. So we will have to wait and see: Does that movie play basically all summer and beyond?

Belloni: The initial tracking for “Oppenheimer” is that it will open lower than “Barbie,” which it is opening against. But the longer-term prospects for “Oppenheimer” are probably strong because it will probably play in theaters even after it loses all those IMAX screens. It's a $100 million movie, so the Nolan brand that Universal was hoping [for], that will carry the day.

Actress Daisy Ridley arrives at the World Premiere Of Disney's “Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker” held at the El Capitan Theatre on December 16, 2019 in Hollywood, Los Angeles. Photo by Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency/NurPhoto

Disney reshuffles its calendar 

Masters: What about these Disney changes? Disney did this massive calendar reshuffle, pushing everything back, more or less, except for “Deadpool 3,” which I think that's going to make it a very brisk production schedule for that movie. 

They also are talking about two “Star Wars” movies in 2026. We haven't seen a “Star Wars” movie in several years now. Do we know what these movies are?

Belloni: It will be seven years, actually, between “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” and this supposed “Star Wars” movie that's coming out in May of 2026, which will be followed six months later by another “Star Wars” movie. 

[It] is a very interesting development, considering there's been criticism by some, including myself, that Lucasfilm hasn't really managed the “Star Wars” film that well, because they've had all of these different filmmakers come in and out the door pitching projects, working on projects, scripting projects, and they haven't pulled the trigger. And these [two] movies have not actually been greenlit yet. 

One is a movie that is supposedly starring Daisy Ridley as Ray, and another perhaps might be this James Mangold directed film. They haven't exactly confirmed or said that that's going to be it, but it's an interesting move by Disney to go from zero “Star Wars” films to two in one year.

Disney bumps “Avatar” and “Avengers” movies

Belloni: The other one everybody's talking about is the “Avatar” bump. That's not that much of a shock that “Avatar 3” is now pushed a year into 2025, but it just pushes everything down the line, and “Avatar 5” is now scheduled for 2031.

Next Christmas felt a little soon for another “Avatar,” considering it's just debuting on Disney+ and Max right now. And you'd have to start up the marketing early next year. So it feels like giving them a little extra time to make it more of an event, makes more sense. 

But it gets to the larger question of why Disney is doing this. I think there's a bunch of different factors there. First of all, they see the strike and the strike impacting things. I think they also see the cost of some of these movies and the COVID costs and everything else is pushing up the cost of these movies, and perhaps stretching them out gives them a little bit more financial leeway. 

I think with respect to the Marvel movies, the two “Avengers” movies where Jonathan Majors character is the villain, I think that pushing those movies a year gives that situation with him and some of the allegations against him time to play out, and for Disney to see how that is going before they actually get into hardcore production on those movies. It also presents a spot for this “Deadpool” movie. That's a franchise with a lot of goodwill. Shawn Levy is taking over as director and maybe they can turn that into a big hit early next summer.

Actress Selenis Leyva announces the nominations for the 80th Annual Golden Globe Awards on December 12, 2022 in Beverly Hills. Photo by Mario Anzuoni/REUTERS. 

What the heck is going on with the Golden Globes?

Masters: Something has happened with the Golden Globes. (I work for the Hollywood Reporter, which is part of Penske media, [which] owns the Globes with this Eldridge Company [owned by] Todd Boehly, who actually used to be in charge of The Hollywood Reporter and still holds an interest.)

What is not clear is… everything about what is happening with this organization? 

Belloni: It's very confusing, and [so is] the press release they put out. Essentially, Boehly and Penske have changed the Hollywood Foreign Press Association into a for-profit entity. The HFPA is going away, it will be replaced by this charitable arm that will get the proceeds from the Golden Globes and distribute to their various charities. But the members of the HFPA are now going to be employees of this for-profit entity, which Boehly has said will bring some accountability and professional governance to this very ragtag organization. 

But what it also brings is his ability to fire them if he wants to get rid of them at some point. And they're now making $75,000 a year to essentially be paid awards voters, which is a great gig if you can get it, but it's potentially limited because after a certain number of years, they can be replaced, fired, bring in new people. 

Boehly thinks that all of this professionalization of the HFPA will do one thing and one thing only, which is the North Star for the Golden Globes: They got to get back on television. They need a TV deal. NBC used the diversity scandal to get out of its deal that was paying the globe $60 to $65 million a year, which was split between Dick Clark Productions and HFPA. That deal went away. They did a one-year deal for this past year's Globes, the ratings were way down, but there still was an audience for the Globes. Now Boehly and Penske think that by “cleaning up the Globes” in this way that they can get someone to take a chance and bring the show back.



Kim Masters


Matt Belloni