'Dune: Part Two'

Source: Warner Bros

‘Dune: Part Two’

Box office across much of the world suffered a wobble in April and May this year, but there is a need to switch up the narrative.

That was the key message that emerged from the executive roundtable session on the first day of this year’s CineEurope convention in Barcelona (June 17-20).

“The narrative on our sector is still negative,” said Tim Richards, founder and CEO of Vue, which operates cinemas in 10 countries and is headquartered in London. “We know because of the [Hollywood] strikes, this is going to be a difficult year, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t amazing movies coming out.

“We’re looking at this, we call it a foundation year. We can’t suddenly make 30 tentpole blockbuster movies appear this weekend. We’re focusing on making sure our cinemas are ready for next year and the future. This is the time to catch our breath, which doesn’t happen very often in our industry. It’s time to double down and button down for what is a big wave coming.”

Richards’ remarks were echoed by Giovanni Dolci, global chief sales officer for Imax. “The endless negative narrative that surrounds our industry is frustrating,” he said. “And it’s on all of us, we need to be out there fighting this narrative.”

The current success of premium-large formats in the exhibition sector means, although US studio product has been relatively weak in Q2 this year, knocking box office off-course in most markets for year to date vs 2023. Imax has defied that trend, enjoying year-on-year growth in many markets where overall box office has declined, with releases such as Warner Bros’ Dune: Part Two doing particularly well. 

On the panel, Steven O’Dell, Sony president of international distribution, reminded delegates, “With any industry, nothing is perfect. You try to make great films and you don’t know what will happen. But I think the slate looks very palatable from everybody.”

The speakers were asked what kept them up at night.

“It’s nothing to do within the industry,” offered O’Dell. “It’s what’s happening outside the world that’s distracting – macroeconomic issues, things like that – that just distract and can maybe take away from what we’re trying to do, which is to make people feel good. That’s probably the only cloud in the sky for us for the next year.”

Unsurprisingly, Inside Out 2 was the film title most referenced on day one of CineEurope – the official convention of UNIC, the International Union of Cinemas. News of the Pixar film’s $295m opening weekend global box office, belatedly igniting the summer 2024 blockbuster season, could not have come at a better time, at least from CineEurope’s perspective.

Inside Out 2 received seven verbal mentions on stage on the first day, including from senior executives at rival studios, and the number rises if references to “Disney’s extraordinary success at the weekend” and similar variants are included. (Disney’s slate presentation is not until Wednesday afternoon.)

UNIC CEO Laura Houlgatte in her welcome presentation drew delegates’ attention to the Inside Out 2 standee in the lobby of host venue the International Barcelona Convention Centre – suggesting we may wish “to go and give [protagonist] Joy a hug”.

For brightening what might otherwise have been a bleak mood for exhibitor delegates at CineEurope, Joy deserves no less.