CLSA analyst Vasily Karasyov offers a bracing, albeit familiar, warning for Hollywood this morning. Box office sales for films based on sequels, spinoffs and other forms of pre-existing intellectual properties such as comic books have “played out,” he says in a new report. And that “presents growing risk to film industry profitability.”
“The nature of any IP re-exploitation cycle (be it DVD, CDs, iTunes or superheroes) is such that despite how long it lasts, it ultimately fades,” Karasyov says.
The problem? Hollywood is now “at the tail end of the process.” The studios have milked their most appealing titles. Their remakes are losing their punch, while companies find themselves now turning to second-tier franchises.
As a result, “the cycle has played out” and the risk to profits “is increasing fast.”
Karasyov has rung similar alarm bells in the past. In 2011 he said that “After a decade of going through comic book character catalogues in search of franchise material, studios are finding it harder and harder to make superhero films work at the box office.”
He remains concerned, though, noting that retreads will account for 16 of this year’s 20 biggest films, close to the record 17 set in 2011 — assuming that Disney’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Good Dinosaur as well as Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 will be in 2015’s top 20 pack.
But the the retread group could set a record by accounting for 44% of the ultimate worldwide box office revenue for this year’s top 20 releases, based on his estimates.
Case in point: 2002’s Spider-Man generated $822 million in worldwide box office and sold 69 million tickets domestically. In 2007 Spider-Man 3 has $891 million in sales, but with 49 million domestic ticket sales. And last year’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was the weakest of the bunch with $709 in global sales, and 22 million in domestic admissions.
Karasyov also points to Disney’s Marvel. Its Avengers: Age Of Ultron generated more than $1.4 billion worldwide, falling to $774 million for Guardians Of The Galaxy, $715 million for Captain America: The Winder Soldier, and $401 million for Ant-Man.
Disney “appears susceptible to the film industry’s profitability risks in the longer term, but we expect the company to gain market share in the next two to three years due to its unusually strong film slate,” he says.