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TV Premieres Drop, Theatrical Wide Releases Spike and True Crime Soars in 2023: Luminate Year-End Film & TV Report

Premieres of new and returning TV shows fell sharply last year while the number of movies getting a theatrical wide release went way up. The volume of TV programs in the true crime genre went through the roof and non-English language films are becoming a bedrock of streaming platforms. Those are among the notable content trends documented in the 2023 Year-End Film and TV Report released today by Luminate, the entertainment data and insights firm.

The changes in TV and film release patterns reflected the upheaval of 2023, when most of Hollywood went on a cost-cutting binge and strikes by the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA put a big crimp in the industry’s supply chain.

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“New economic realities cast a formidable shadow over the filmed content sector, particularly impacting the budgets allocated for new content production. Combined with an increasingly competitive landscape vying for viewer attention, those economic realities have prompted a strategic shift in the approach of both linear TV networks and streaming platforms,” the Luminate report states. (Luminate is owned by Variety parent company PMC.)

The impact of the labor conflict was crystal clear in the fourth quarter of 2023. The volume of new and returning program premieres plunged 21% (from 2,264 in 2022 to 1,784), the lowest level since at least 2018 when 2,006 programs bowed in the winter quarter.

The groundswell of movie wide releases was also fueled by the strikes. Studios “front-loaded” titles in the first half of the year in anticipation of work stoppages. Theatrical wide releases in the U.S. were up 41% year-over-year (from 92 to 130) while the number of new movie titles released via streaming platforms slipped 3%, from 507 in 2022 to 490 last year. The boost in theatrical wide releases was driven by low budget films (under $10 million), which were up 110% year-over-year, and blockbusters (defined as movies with budgets of $100 million or more), which jumped 86% last year vs. 2022.

For TV, across linear and streaming, programs in the comedy genre took the biggest year-over-year hit, with the number of premieres dropping 30% (to 134). Drama also took a hit (down 25% to 381). Even unscripted alternative series were down 20% (to 1,038). True crime premieres were up 8% across broadcast and cable channels (to 147 titles) but down 11% on streaming platforms (dropping to 140 titles).

In film, non-English language movies ruled the roost as a genre for streamers, with 191 such titles bowing across major platforms, a 22% gain from 2022. Action movies were the other genre to register a double-digit boost last year, climbing 23% to 97 titles across major streamers.

Mark Hoebich, Luminate’s executive VP and Head of Film and TV, will host a free webinar at 10 a.m. PT on Jan. 18 for a deeper dive into the 29-page report. Click here to register.

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