• ugcpic

    Unlimited Options

    News Reel Blog   

    France’s UGC helps pioneer a new program to strengthen the diversity of programming at the movies.

    Ideally situated on the Avenue Champs-Élysées in Paris, just west of the famous Arc de Triomphe, sits the business offices for UGC, one of the country’s leading exhibition and distribution companies. The view from the top floor, suffice to say, is remarkable. It also symbolizes a philosophy now inherent within the company. A glance from one office window reveals a mesmerizing panorama spanning from the Eiffel Tower to the iconic arch at Place de l’Étoile. It’s old Paris in its purest vista. The view from the opposite office window faces towards La Défence, a modern business district full of glass high-rises and steel skyscrapers. It’s new Paris in shimmering glory. This visual dichotomy epitomizes UGC’s focus on maintaining tradition while also looking towards the future. And that variety manifests itself at the multiplex.

    It only takes a casual glance at the show times in Paris to notice the array of options available for moviegoers in the French capital. With 206 million tickets sold in 2015, France is the largest movie-going market in Europe in terms of admissions and a close second next to the UK in terms of box office. What makes this movie-going figure intriguing is that it is nearly 80 percent higher than it was 25 years ago, when France bottomed out by hitting a historically low level of admissions. The market’s rebound has been achieved, in part, by collaboration between the film industry’s segments in establishing admission-driving policies. Another such example occurred this May, when trade bodies representing production, distribution, and exhibition signed an agreement with production and distribution companies to help strengthen the market by putting in place best practices to support wider diversity in programming.

    For Alain Sussfeld, co-CEO of UGC, the right mix to optimize movie-going in France should ideally be 50 percent of the box office coming from U.S. movies, 40 percent from French movies and the remaining 10 percent from other European and non-European productions. “This is hard to create,” Sussfeld shared in an interview with Boxoffice Media CEO Julien Marcel. “Even harder to maintain but this is essential to offer the type of quality and diversity our audience expects.”

    According to Sussfeld, one should not consider diversity as a challenge to the success of Hollywood or domestic blockbusters. All movies benefit from a good momentum on the market. Rather than representing a conflict of interest, Sussfeld calls it an “addition of interests.”

    “The goal of movie theatres should be to make sure that, any point in time, all types of audiences can be offered a movie that matches their interests, tastes, or simply their mood of the day. Let’s not be obsessed with blockbusters targeting the teenagers, let’s focus on the complete range of moviegoers from 5 to 75!”

    The agreement signed in May between the industry’s trade bodies suggests that UGC’s philosophy on diversity is shared by others in the industry. The two principal dimensions to the agreement that affect exhibition aim to optimize screen counts and showtimes for all films on the market. Firstly, all stakeholders agreed to limit the number of screens dedicated to any given film on any given day.  The underlying idea is that it is not good to overexpose a movie in a short period of time. “Cinema cannot be summarized as ‘Take the money and run,’” explains Sussfeld. “A movie needs time in theatres, it is part of its value. Putting a blockbuster in too many screens and then getting rid of it two weeks later is not good for anyone!” Additionally, exhibitors take a commitment to offer a pre-defined number of show times for limited release movies that would otherwise have a hard time to make it to the big screen. The strategy seeks to limit the overexposure of blockbusters and applies equally to French and U.S. movies alike.

    Behind this approach is the idea that a solid theatrical market requires a long term strategy that includes diversity of content rather than the maximization of box office week after week. According to Sussfeld, there is no successful diversity strategy without a consistent commercial policy. In UGC’s case, this policy is based on a strong loyalty program and an unlimited subscription pass that aims to help viewers discover new films. UGC’s unlimited pass is particularly designed to reinforce the likelihood that moviegoers will try different types of movies and adopt an attitude of discovery in future cinema visits. As a result, UGC is able to retain their fair share of blockbuster admissions while over-performing on limited release movies, helping them balance low attendance periods.

    Sussfeld’s main concern is that this model hasn’t yet been adopted outside France, making it fragile by definition. With the support of other markets through a similar approach, Sussfeld believes there would be a better understanding of the specificities of movie-going in each market. Leave it to the French to teach us a thing or two about maintaining a cultural commodity.

    At the end of the day, however, the model’s long term sustainability cannot exist without a solid slate of releases. Year-to-Date admissions in France, +4.1 percent at the end of August, suggest the market hasn’t encountered any difficulty adopting this new model. The question moving forward now becomes, will any other markets venture to attempt something similar?

  • marriotmarina

    Combination of the Annual Meetings and Fall Summit was a Success

    Reel Blog   

    For many years, NATO’s Annual Meetings have brought together exhibition’s most committed leaders to discuss timely issues and to guide the future of the industry.  Given the abundance of current challenges and opportunities, this year’s meeting was no different.  What was different was that NATO combined the Annual Meetings with the NATO Fall Summit this year, which resulted in record attendance at the meetings held 27-29 September at the Marina del Rey Marriott in California.

    The Annual Meetings addressed important topics including globalization, government relations, movie ratings, theater security, theatrical release windows, technology, and membership services. It also provided numerous opportunities for networking and for reconnecting with industry colleagues and friends, especially during the evening events on 27 September, generously sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company.

    The NATO Fall Summit provides NATO members with a forum to share information and learn what to do to promote the movie-going experience and make it the best possible for our guests. That core goal was the basis for this year’s program. The event kicked off with an exclusive product presentation and screening of Hacksaw Ridge courtesy of Lionsgate, and was followed by a full day of informative and interactive sessions concentrated on “Innovations and Strategies Focused on Reaching Millennials and More.” Guest speakers included Stacey Snider, 20th Century Fox Film’s new Chairman and CEO; Brett Petit, SVP/Marketing & Sales for Six Flags Theme Parks; Ellis Jacob, President & CEO, Cineplex Entertainment; Ann Hand, CEO, Super League Gaming; and a live focus group of millennials.

    For those who attended, thank you for your time and enthusiastic participation, and for those considering joining us next year, please mark your calendar:  NATO’s Annual Meeting and Fall Summit, 26–28 September 2017, at the Marina del Rey Marriott.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us with questions or ideas, as we continue to look for ways to grow these programs and to grow our attendees’ bottom lines.

  • republicanlogo

    Playing the Trump Card: Donald Trump and the Movie Theater Industry

    News Reel Blog   

    This article originally appeared in Boxoffice magazine. 

    The nomination of Donald J. Trump as the 2016 Republican presidential candidate was one of the most surprising primary outcomes in modern political history.  His unexpected surge to the top of the Republican ticket stunned many seasoned political observers, forcing them to come to terms with changing tides in the Republican party and the down-ticket effect of a relative outsider.

    To the entertainment industry, however, Donald Trump is certainly no stranger.  A member of the Screen Actors Guild, he has spent several decades in showbiz—cameo appearances on TV shows, host of NBC’s The Apprentice, beauty pageant ownership, involvement in World Wrestling Entertainment, and model management.  Trump’s reach extends to the video game universe as well.  “Donald Trump’s Real Estate Tycoon,” released in 2002, is a business simulation game pitting players against Trump.  A video game version of Trump’s show “The Apprentice” was released in 2006.  Trump’s name recognition as an entertainment personality was undoubtedly a key asset as he campaigned his way through the United States and assumed the mantle of the Republican party.

    And even though many of the party establishment regard him as a political interloper, this election is not Trump’s first involvement in politics.  Trump has been active as a campaign contributor for many years, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic and Republican political campaigns and organizations.  Trump has also used his social media accounts as a platform for political expression.  In 2012, he was a vocal proponent of Mitt Romney, tweeting frequently in support of Romney’s candidacy.  Many of his statements were critiques of President Barack Obama’s handling of the national debt, Obamacare, and jobs.

    Now that he represents a major political party, Trump has had to articulate positions on many diverse issues.  Unpredictable and untested, Trump’s candidacy has left pundits and analysts scrambling to understand his policy orientation.  While he does maintain consistent attitudes toward some issues, Trump’s frequent backtracking makes pinning down the presidential nominee’s opinions a challenging exercise.  This article will explore Trump’s positions on several issues pertinent to the movie theater industry.  (Previous coverage of candidates in this magazine included articles on Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz in the June 2015 and January 2016 issues of boxoffice, respectively.  See Baruh, Esther, “Rated ‘A’ For Aggressive: Hillary Clinton, the Entertainment Industry, and First Amendment Rights,” BoxOffice Pro, June 2015 and Baruh, Esther, “Ted Talk:  Movie Theaters and Ted Cruz,” Boxoffice, January 2016.)

    Violence in the Media and Ratings Systems

    The few comments on media violence that Trump has offered may shed light on his attitudes toward depictions of violence in video games and movies.  Trump is endorsed by the National Rifle Association, and he criticized gun control laws as ineffective following shooting incidents in the U.S. and abroad.  He has also decried the concept of gun-free zones.  However, some of his comments on violence in entertainment would suggest that he does regard depictions of violence in video games and movies to be troubling.  After the mass murder in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012, Trump tweeted that “Video game violence & glorification must be stopped—it is creating monsters!”  (The video games associated with Trump are both are rated “E” for everyone by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.)  Trump has also suggested that Hollywood personalities who support gun control but make movies with violent scenes are acting hypocritically.  “Movie producer Harvey Weinstein, who lost his company to Colony Capital, is against guns but makes movies w/ [sic] major gun violence–really!” Trump tweeted in 2014.

    Other than these comments on violence in entertainment, Trump has remained largely silent on the ratings systems governing movies and video games.  In March of this year, Trump wrote the following in response to questions on the entertainment industry posed by the Washington Post:   “Parents should make the determination about what their children should watch or not watch.  If they do not have enough information upon which to base those decisions, they should insist that their elected representatives act on those needs.”  Trump’s answer would seem to indicate that he favors a form of government regulation of movie and video game ratings, if the ratings systems fail to advise parents adequately about the content of their products.

    Soda Tax

    Trump has not articulated a position specifically against soda taxes, although he has generally pledged to eliminate some taxes and reduce income tax rates.  After the Philadelphia city council passed legislation mandating a tax on sweetened beverages in June, the RNC published a blog post decrying the tax as regressive and highlighting Hillary Clinton’s support for the tax.  Trump shared the RNC’s blog post on Facebook, but did not state his own opposition to the tax; instead, he echoed the RNC’s points and focused on Clinton’s support for the tax.  “Crooked Hillary Clinton has endorsed Philly’s soda tax, which violates her pledge to not support taxes on the poor and middle class,” he wrote on Facebook.

    Minimum Wage

    Trump’s position on minimum wage increases has shifted over the course of the election cycle.  Initially, Trump seemed to be against any minimum wage increases.  During a GOP debate in November 2015, Trump stated that he “would not” raise minimum wage.  “We have to leave it the way it is,” Trump said of minimum wage.  “People have to go out, they have to work really hard and have to get into that upper stratum.”

    In May 2016, however, in an appearance on CNN, Trump seemed to indicate that he supported an increased minimum wage, with the caveat that the federal government should not be the entity raising the wage floor.  “I think people have to get more,” he told host George Stephanopoulos.  That same day, Trump clarified his position further on a “Meet the Press” appearance, saying that wage increases should occur but should be dictated by state governments.  “I don’t know how people make it on $7.25 an hour. Now, with that being said, I would like to see an increase of some magnitude.  But I’d rather leave it to the states.  Let the states decide,” he said.  When host Chuck Todd asked if the federal government should set a base wage and then have states make further increases, Trump said he would “rather have the states go out and do what they have to do,” implying that he did not support a federal wage increase, but does support individual state action.

    Trump further expanded his views on minimum wage in July during a press interview and follow-up questions.  When asked by Bill O’Reilly if he supported a wage increase, Trump said “the minimum wage has to go up,” citing $10 as an appropriate wage floor.  “I think that states should really call the shot,” he added, reiterating his previously stated position that states should determine minimum wages.  But in follow-up questions, a reporter asked Trump if his comment about a $10 wage floor was referring to federal minimum wage.  “Federal,” Trump confirmed.

    Whatever the outcome of this election cycle, the individual elected to the White House in November is sure to set a legislative and regulatory agenda that impacts the many matters affecting exhibition.  From the issues explored in this article, to accessibility regulation, to changes in the labor landscape, theater owners can anticipate new challenges ahead.

  • democratlogo

    Rated “A” for Aggressive: Hillary Clinton, the Entertainment Industry, and First Amendment Rights

    News Reel Blog   

    This article originally appeared in Boxoffice magazine. 

    The movie theater industry takes its ratings compliance and enforcement seriously – and the Democratic nominee for president does too.

    From the time she moved into the White House as First Lady through her tenure as Senator from New York and her first presidential campaign, Hillary Rodham Clinton consistently made childhood and family issues a focal point – including the impact of entertainment content on children.  Of late, she has positioned herself as an arbiter on family issues, using the hashtag #GrandmothersKnowBest to hearken to her own experience as a mother and grandmother.  Now that her second presidential campaign is in full swing, her past focus on children and media could resurface.  This article takes a deep dive into Clinton’s history on the issue.

    The mid-nineties were a hotbed of executive activism and industry change toward entertainment ratings systems.  Congress enacted – with the support of President Bill Clinton – legislation mandating television chips that would screen programs for violent content.  Summoning television executives to the White House in early 1996, the Clinton administration put the heat on television studios to produce a voluntary, industry-wide ratings system that would help parents screen out inappropriate material.  The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), established only a couple years earlier, was in the nascent stage of applying and enforcing its tiered ratings.

    Encouraging these efforts was a figure who would continue to push an aggressive agenda on media ratings and content throughout her own time in office:  First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    Devoted to children’s issues during her time in the East Wing, Clinton made clear her opposition to childhood exposure to sexual imagery and violence in entertainment.  In the early years of her husband’s first term, Clinton decried the oversaturation of violence in media.  “We are fed, through the media, a daily diet of sex and violence and social dysfunction and unrealizable fantasies,” she said at a 1995 appearance at Brooklyn College.  Clinton participated in the president’s 1996 meeting with television executives – both she and Tipper Gore sat in on the proceedings – and continued to raise objections to media violence and sexuality into her husband’s second term.  In a 1998 speech on school safety, Clinton linked viewed violence to real-life behavior.  “The violence children see every day on their TV and video screens – all lead to more violent and aggressive behavior, particularly among our teenagers,” she warned.

    Clinton’s speech came just months before the most seismic, tragic event in teen violence in modern American history.  The entertainment industry would soon be rocked by the repercussions of the Columbine massacre.  Video games, movies, television programs, and music were soon to be subjected to intense national scrutiny over their effect on youth mental health and morality.

    The mass murders of their fellow students by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris ignited national debates over gun access, bullying, and equally famously, the effect of violence depicted in movies and video games.  Psychiatrists, pundits, and armchair psychologists alike posited that Klebold and Harris had been negatively influenced by the contents of the movie “Natural Born Killers” and the video game “Doom.”  Marilyn Manson, eviscerated in the press for possible linkage between his music and the actions of the two teens, was compelled to issue a statement calling the entertainment industry “unfairly scapegoated.”

    Scrambling to address this issue, President Clinton immediately convened an entertainment industry summit and ordered senior aides to brief him on the various ratings systems employed by the different entertainment sectors.  In June of 1999, the president invited NATO’s president and board chairwoman to the Oval Office to discuss a public push on stronger enforcement of “R” rated movies.

    But the president wasn’t alone in linking the Columbine tragedy with entertainment media.  The first lady, on the cusp of declaring her Senate candidacy, continued to publicly correlate youth violence with media violence.  At a roundtable event with parents in New York, she urged attendees not to purchase violent video games, “no matter how much your child begs.”  She also pressed the parents to think about boycotting sponsors of violent TV shows.  “There is just no doubt that our children are exposed to an overwhelming amount of violence and mayhem – not only violent acts, but violent language – from the moment they are put in front of a television set,” she warned.

    In late 1999, she called for a uniform ratings standard – a stance she endorsed in the speech officially declaring her Senate campaign.  An “alphabet soup” of ratings was too confusing for parents, she said, and should be replaced by one system used across all entertainment sectors.  Industry leaders were quick to push back against Clinton’s proposal, stating that a new system would cause even more confusion in the marketplace.  The idea had support in Congress, but legislation never gained traction.

    Entertainment ratings systems and how parents could differentiate between age-appropriate content remained a prime issue for Clinton once she took office.  While in the Senate, Clinton co-sponsored no less than five bills addressing the impact of media on children and the marketing of violent or sexual content to minors, crossing the aisle to join with conservative Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Rick Santorum (R-PA) on these efforts.

    But her most prominent attempt to upend ratings systems came in 2005, when she introduced the Family Entertainment Protect Act (FEPA), a bill levying civil penalties on business that sold or rented video games rated Mature, Adults-Only, or Ratings Pending to anyone under the age of 17.  The legislation was Clinton’s horrified reaction to the revelation that the video game “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” contained a hidden mini-game with graphic sexual content.  The game was originally rated “M” for Mature, which Clinton and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) considered an egregious mischaracterization of the game’s content.  (The FTC eventually entered into a consent agreement with the game’s makers, who agreed to re-rate the game and include more information about ratings on promotional packaging.)  Clinton’s strong feelings on childhood exposure to violent and sexual media were evident in her floor speech introducing the bill:

    “I rise today to introduce a bill to help parents protect their children against violent and sexual media.  I stand with the parents and children of the Nation, all of whom are being victimized by a culture of violence.  As parents, we monitor the kind of people who interact with our children. If somebody is exposing our children to material we find inappropriate, we remove our children from that person.  Yet our children spend more time consuming media than doing anything else but sleeping and attending school.  Media culture is like having a stranger in your house, and it exerts a major influence over your children.”

    Her strong public stance on the issue notwithstanding, Clinton’s bill died without seeing Senate floor action.  However, it is unlikely that the bill would have withstood judicial scrutiny if it had passed Congress:  Similar laws in California, Louisiana, Michigan, and Oklahoma were found unconstitutional.  The case against the California bill made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld previous rulings that the bill violated the Constitution.

    In 2005, the California state legislature passed a bill banning the sale of violent video games to anyone under age 18.  Video game software makers and merchants obtained an injunction to block the law’s enforcement, and the bill was consistently struck down by federal courts on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment.  Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appealed these decisions, ultimately convincing the Supreme Court to consider the case.  NATO submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of the game-makers’ right to produce such content.

    In 2011, the Court ruled 7-2 that the bill violated both the First and Fourteenth Amendments.  The decision affirmed the right of game-makers and merchants to create and market violent video games, which the Court held to be no different than fairy tales with gory content.

    Just as crucial to the collective entertainment industry was the fact that the justices took into account the accomplishments of the ESRB’s voluntary ratings system.  The Federal Trade Commission’s 2009 report on the success of the ESRB ratings system in restricting the sale of mature products to minors was influential to the court.  In delivering the opinion of the court, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the ratings system “does much to ensure that minors cannot purchase seriously violent games on their own, and that parents who care about the matter can readily evaluate the games their children bring home.  Filling the remaining modest gap in concerned-parents’ control can hardly be a compelling state interest.”  The message to the entertainment industry was clear:  High rates of compliance with voluntary ratings systems help keep the government out of your business.

    The entertainment ratings issue remained relevant in Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.  In a 2007 interview with Common Sense Media, Clinton said she still supported legislation like FEPA and pledged to “work to protect children from inappropriate video game content” if she became president.  (Clinton’s daughter Chelsea currently serves on the Board of Advisors for Common Sense Media.  The organization opposed the court’s decision on the California legislation.)

    Fast forward eight years to the present day and Clinton’s second presidential campaign.  While her official campaign announcement focused on the economy, Clinton has given no indication that her positions on media content and entertainment ratings have changed.  Indeed, her long history of work on childhood issues and robust past backing of executive and legislative proposals on these matters – the strong support Clinton enjoys from Hollywood moguls notwithstanding – may foreshadow her continued activism.

  • findingdory

    Summer and Smoke and Mirrors

    News Reel Blog   

    Summer 2016 was terrible except when it wasn’t.

    And it wasn’t terrible most of the time, but as is so often the case, a few high profile underperforming movies had the trade press dumping shovels full of dirt on the summer before it was scarcely under way.  A headline in the Hollywood Reporter on June 13 moaned “Summer Box-Office Slump: Revenue Down a Steep 22 Percent”. While on the surface the comparison was for a similar period of time – the first day of summer in 2015 and 2016 through the current equivalent weekend – the 2015 summer season had started five days sooner and accounted for $292.6 million. Now, you can’t make that money disappear, but what you can do is not measure two very different things and call them the same.

    Are there better ways to compare? There are certainly different ways to compare. The Reporter article went on to include the last weekend in April and the first week of May 2016 in its comparison and found 2016 still lagging by 14%, which isn’t surprising, because that week didn’t include the first big debut of summer. Another way to look at the summer to date might have compared the first week of summer 15 and the first week of summer 16, which would have yielded that previously mentioned $292.6 million for 2015, and – wait for it – $302.6 million for 2016. Up 3.4%. Or you could compare the first week of summer 15 to the non-existent equivalent week and 2015 comes out ahead by infinity percent.

    The point here is not that comparisons shouldn’t be made, but to understand what it is that you are comparing, or better still to recognize that the sample size is too small to draw any useful conclusions. This is the problem with comparing any weekend to a corresponding weekend in an earlier year. Not only is the sample size too small to draw useful conclusions, but the premise that the movies opening on this particular weekend have anything in common, or should gross the same or better than the movies that opened a year before is difficult to sustain. It is even more spurious that the health of an industry should be judged based on those shaky comparisons.

    The parade of bad headlines continued. Variety weighed in with “Box Office Meltdown: Hollywood Races to Win Back Summer Crowds” noting that “Ticket sales are down roughly 10% this summer, but the slide is more precipitous than those numbers suggest.” While also failing to mention that summer 2015 included an extra week, the Entertainment Bible brought on perennial doomsayer Hal Vogel to intone,” The theater business has weaker prospects going forward than at any time in the last 30 years. It’s encountering visible strain this summer. It’s a superhero, mega-blockbuster, tentpole strategy run amuck. There’s too much of it, and it’s not working.”

    Note that a month after the Hollywood Reporter sounded the alarm about a 22% decrease year over year (caused, remember, by an extra week of 2015 summer box office), that deficit is now 10%.

    The rush to find a trend in limited data is not new, nor is the compulsion to peg a movie’s underperformance relative to its budget as symptomatic of flagging moviegoer desire, but this summer may have hit a new mark in industry analysts ignoring what is happening right under their noses.

    In mid-June, when the Hollywood Reporter piece came out, there had been six head-to-head summer weeks or weekends. Three of them were up compared to 2015 and three were down. As the story noted, the weekend just past was down 44%. It did not note that the first head-to-head week of summer was up 79% in 2016. Nor did it note that year-to-date, 2016 was ahead of 2015.

    The disconnection was even starker by the time Variety made the summer stand in for an industry in crisis. Aside from YTD box office being up 2% (which they did note) and the summer deficit having been cut more than half – suggesting a different trajectory than the one they were outlining – they also didn’t note that seven of the previous twelve head-to-head weeks were up in 2016.

    Just before summer’s end, an unbroken string of “up” weeks (starting the week of the Variety story) prompted Cinema Blend to realize in headline form “Apparently 2016’s Summer Box Office Wasn’t As Horrific As We Thought, Get The Details”. That string continued to the end of the summer, leaving behind a record August (up 32%) and summer box office that was essentially even with 2015, despite being a week shorter.

    While summer is still strikingly important as a season where potential moviegoers seem most available, it is not always as important relative to the rest of the year.  Since, summer box office has been routinely topping $4 billion, beginning in 2007, its percentage of yearly box office has fluctuated. From a low in 2014 of 39% – in a year in which box office was down overall – to a high of 44% in 2013 when overall box office was up and set a record of $10.92 billion, it might appear as if a robust summer drives the year’s box office performance.  Yet, in 2011, the summer accounted for 43% of box office and yearly box office fell 3.7%.

    Indeed, summer box office in absolute numbers may not prove predictive of the year. In 2012, summer box office counted for 40% of the year’s box office, but fell in absolute terms from the year before by 2.7%. Annual box office was up 6% and set another record. Last year, summer box office was up in absolute terms by 10.3%, while the record-setting yearly total was up 6.9% to $11.12 billion.

    What seems clear is that the summer box office haul varies with the movies that are being released, much as the rest of the year does. The key difference this year is that the studio tentpole strategy and a crowded summer is almost inadvertently providing theater owners with something they have been asking for a very long time: a 52-week movie slate.

    Consider this year in comparison to last year – remember, a record year at the box office, Q1 2015 was up 3.19%, Q1 2016 was up 12.77% over that period.  Q2 2015 was up 9.54%, Q1 2016 was down a similar amount over that period. Q3 2015 was up 5.97%, Q3 2016 so far is up 15.2%. Summer 2015 was up 10.4%, Summer 2016 held even with that period, despite being a week shorter (without that extra week, 2016 would be up 6.96% head-to-head). Q4 2015 was up 10.69%.

    In absolute terms, 2016 is remarkably balanced. Q1 brought in $2.78 billion, Q2 $2.8 billion and Q3, with three weeks remaining has brought in $2.64 billion – equal to all of Q1 2015 . If it brings in the same revenue in the remaining days of the quarter as in 2015, it will be nudging up against $3 billion. Q4 2015 brought in $2.91 billion.

    Year to date, 2016 leads 2015 by 4.78% (roughly $350 million).

    The intense focus on weekly year-over-year comparisons, absent context, obscures more than it illuminates. The expressions of shock around the industry when final numbers showed that this summer was really pretty good – and in the case of the third quarter and August in particular, extraordinary – reveals a remarkable ignorance of how this industry works. Even more remarkable, it reveals an ignorance of how facts work.