Marcus Theatres Chief Greg Marcus Jokes About Company’s New Method For Predicting Movie Box Office: “We’re Going To Be Holding A Séance”

Marcus Corp. CEO Greg Marcus joked that the Milwaukee-based movie theater owner has hit on a new method for predicting box office.

“We’re going to be holding a séance next week to figure out what the theater business is going to look like next year,” Marcus said during the company’s third quarter earnings call with Wall Street analysts when asked for his outlook for 2024. “We don’t know! We have no clue. We don’t even know when we know what’s coming.”

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Exhibitors and others in the industry have been constantly destabilized this year by the impact of the overlapping WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, the latter of which is still ongoing. The labor impasses have caused a flurry of changes for movie production and release schedules. Combined with the ongoing recovery from Covid and a range of economic pressures, the industry has seen a whirlwind of unpredictable results in recent months, from the highs of last summer’s Barbenheimer to much spottier showings for a number of money-losing releases.

“It all comes down to the number of films released,” Marcus said. “And Hollywood, as you know, is not really disclosing” that number. “There have been some moves. We know that Dune 2 moved to next year. Well, that’s going to fill a little bit of a hole. It left us with a bit of a hole [in fall 2023] but all of a sudden Taylor Swift showed up. She rode in a horse to save the day.”

Swift’s concert film exploded onto the scene with the second biggest October bow in history despite being distributed outside of the studio system.

About 15% fewer films have been released in 2023 than in pre-pandemic times, Marcus noted, and box office receipts have fallen accordingly. Still, he sees more growth ahead. “As the pipeline gets refilled, the business will come back,” he said.

Marcus was asked multiple times on the call about M&A given the widespread distress in the exhibition sector. He said opportunities have begun to “pop up,” but the company has not found them compelling. A prospective acquisition target, he said, “has to have good economics and we’re not seeing the economics we want to see. … It feels good to say we’re a certain size, but we’d rather have more cash flow. We’ll be patient and deliberate as we always have and as we see the opportunities we’ll move.”

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