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North American Box Office Sales Come In About 4% Lower Than Last Year

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

This year, we traveled far, far away one more time.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: EPISODE IX - THE RISE OF SKYWALKER")

MARK HAMILL: (As Luke Skywalker) Confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi.

CHANG: We belted along with two sisters.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FROZEN 2")

IDINA MENZEL: (As Elsa, singing) Into the unknown.

CHANG: And we saved the galaxy in spandex.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "AVENGERS: ENDGAME")

CHRIS EVANS: (As Captain America) Avengers, assemble.

CHANG: But all that heroism and nostalgia did not bring big box office numbers. Preliminary estimates put North American ticket sales about 4% lower than last year. Rosy Cordero covers the box office for Entertainment Weekly, and she joins us now to explain what happened.

Welcome.

ROSY CORDERO: Thank you.

CHANG: Just a reality check here - is a 4% drop in ticket sales really that big of a deal? It doesn't sound like a big deal to me.

CORDERO: Wait a minute. I'm going to put a little bit of perspective here for you. At the end of April...

CHANG: Yeah.

CORDERO: The box office was down 11%.

CHANG: Oh.

CORDERO: So 4% down is a huge improvement.

CHANG: And why do we think that happened? Why do you think there was a slump this year in box office sales?

CORDERO: With the addition of all these streaming services, with, like, Disney Plus and Netflix seriously, you know, bringing up their game, I feel like people are being really picky and saying, hey, you guys have to do something spectacular to get me to leave my house, like, off my couch, to drop all that money to go and see your film.

CHANG: OK, so because streaming has been on and on and on the rise, is 4% actually kind of a good number? I mean, it's not that bad of news considering how much worse it could've been.

CORDERO: Absolutely.

CHANG: So what are theaters doing now to keep people coming to the movies?

CORDERO: What theaters are doing is they're incentivizing people who want to go to the theaters. For example, we used to have this program called MoviePass, where you would pay one flat fee, and you can go see however many movies you wanted within a 30-day period. So now that that's defunct - #RIPMoviePass (ph)...

CHANG: (Laughter).

CORDERO: We now have movie chains who are offering their own types because, really, at the end of the day, the movie theaters are making money off of concessions.

CHANG: So let's talk about the films that did do well because I'm wondering if there's a lesson there about what people are still willing to buy movie tickets for and want to see on the big screen.

CORDERO: The big lesson here is that Disney is king.

CHANG: OK.

CORDERO: The No. 1 film of the year was "Avengers: Endgame" - Disney. And then No. 2, we had "The Lion King," also Disney; No. 3, "Toy Story 4," four, "Captain Marvel" and five, "Frozen 2."

CHANG: Wow.

CORDERO: Those are your top five ending 2019, so (laughter)...

CHANG: OK, what is the lesson there?

CORDERO: I mean, sorry to Martin Scorsese...

CHANG: (Laughter).

CORDERO: But people want to see these superhero movies. "Avengers: Endgame" is doing even better than "Star Wars," which is a fandom that has existed for so many years. And yet, it didn't do as well as "Avengers: Endgame," so there's definitely the love of the comic book stories. And while nostalgia was kind of very hit or miss this year, you know, with the live action version of "The Lion King" being at No. 2, there's still a market. There's still a market for these films that so many people grew up watching and loving and maybe want to share now with their children.

CHANG: Yeah. So are there any movies coming up in 2020 that are on your radar?

CORDERO: Oh, my God, there are so many movies for 2020 that are on my radar, which is funny because there are some that are nostalgia factors, like "Coming to America 2." Then there's the live action "Mulan," which I'm sure is also going to break box office. There's "Bond 25: No Time To Die," where we wrap up the Bond storyline, and we find out whether we are really getting a female Bond. But I'm sure what we will see at the top of the box office, as far as 2020, is going to be Scarlett Johansson's "Black Widow."

CHANG: Rosy Cordero of Entertainment Weekly, thanks very much.

CORDERO: Thank you for your time.

(SOUNDBITE OF LARRY BUNKER AND HARRY "SWEETS" EDISON'S "HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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