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Hollywood to Plan When It Doesn’t Know Who’s Watching What?

With box office numbers way down in the pandemic and streaming numbers hard to come by, the film industry is often unable to determine whether a movie is a hit or a miss.

LOS ANGELES — Labor Day weekend is typically a moment for Hollywood to take a breath and assess. After the big-budget escapism of summer and before the Oscar hopefuls of fall, what signals are moviegoers sending?

Reading box-office tea leaves is like pontificating about symbolism in works of fiction: Any halfway plausible theory works. But studio bosses need something, anything to guide them as they make billion-dollar judgment calls for the seasons ahead.

“Superheroes still seem to sell — keep raiding the comic books.” “Rom-coms were roadkill — no more of those.” Or whatever.

This year, the only takeaway is that there are no takeaways.

The box office remains sunken and scattershot, with once-reliable audience patterns upended by the coronavirus pandemic and, for many films, ticket sales cannibalized by instant availability on streaming services. More and more, films are bypassing theaters and debuting exclusively on Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Apple TV+ and others, but those companies refuse to disclose meaningful viewership data.

North American movie theaters have sold about $2.2 billion in tickets so far this year, compared with $7.8 billion for the same period in 2019, according to Comscore, which collects ticketing data. (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings teljes film ingyenes magyarul.)

The result is a film industry in a fog, in many cases unable to even ascertain whether a movie is a hit or a miss. How do you assign value if you don’t know?

“There’s a real abstraction to what success looks like,” said Nina Jacobson, a film and television producer and a former president of Walt Disney Studios. “It’s not just about money. For us, success is really about: Did it matter? Did people talk about it? It is very easy to just get lost in a mountain of content.”

“At least before, we had the language of box office,” added Ms. Jacobson, whose credits with Brad Simpson, her producing partner, include “Crazy Rich Asians” and the upcoming mini-series “Impeachment: American Crime Story.”

Box office scorecards — daily totals by film, available for all to see — became common in the 1980s after consultants started using computers to collate data from thousands of theaters. Before that, Variety magazine gathered limited information, and studios disclosed numbers only when it suited them, much as streaming services do today.

Agents quickly seized on the statistics to win bigger paydays for clients. Positive numbers became a routine part of the movie marketing playbook. (“shang-chi és a tíz gyűrű legendája teljes film online magyar!”) With national news outlets reporting tallies every Sunday, Hollywood’s business turned into everyone’s business.

But the pandemic and streaming-service onslaught have severely disrupted the industry.

Most movies no longer roll out as they once did — first in theaters for an exclusive run of about three months, then online for rental and purchase, then on streaming services and television. Now, dozens of films are mostly viewed online. Netflix alone plans to release 41 original movies between early this month and the end of the year. Universal has been making films available in homes through premium video on demand after as little as 17 days of theatrical play. Warner Bros. movies have been arriving simultaneously in theaters and on Szent Ignác útja – Camino Ignaciano teljes film ingyenes magyarul.

Against that backdrop, is success still about strong ticket sales? Is it more about growing a streaming-service subscriber base? Or is it some nebulous combination of both?

Those questions form the center of Scarlett Johansson’s lawsuit against Disney. She contends that Disney’s decision to simultaneously release “Black Widow” in theaters and on Disney+ lowered her pay for starring in the Egy igazán dühös ember teljes film magyarul — at the same time bolstering Disney+ and thus the company’s standing on Wall Street. Disney has said her complaint has “no merit.”

Or maybe there has been a deeper shift. Do people, now accustomed to an on-demand world, feel less of a need to rush out to see the latest film? That would mean box office expectations need to be reset. New releases are now competing with seemingly every film or television show ever made, all streaming on one service or another.

“People are searching for answers, and there are no easy ones to be found,” said Gail Berman, president of the Producers Guild of America and a past president of Paramount Pictures. “In terms of producers, I keeping telling people to just keep pushing toward quality — quality storytelling always wins out, always — and that they can’t stop for ‘oh, my feelings are hurt’ or ‘this isn’t how it used to be done.’”
“You always know when something is a hit, and you also know when something is a bomb,” continued Ms. Berman, whose producing credits include Baz Luhrmann’s coming Elvis Presley biopic and “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” on Netflix. “It’s all that stuff in the middle that is so hard to figure out, and there is a lot of middle right now.”