Yesterday marked the biggest pre-sales day for the largest exhibitor in the world when Avengers: Endgame went on sale, further proof to what he has been exclaiming for quite some time: Theatrical is still king. No questions about it.
While many online ticket retailers have been exclaiming how Avengers: Endgame beat their previous top best-seller, the advance ticket sales for Avengers: Endgame were so huge on the AMC side, they outstripped the combined first day sales of Avengers: Infinity War, Captain Marvel, Black Panther and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Avengers: Endgame advance tickets best AMC’s previous first day champ Star Wars: The Force Awakens by 50%. While the business media press foolishly proclaimed the death of cinema in the summer of 2017, Aron’s assertion that nothing is wrong at the box office was absolutely correct as domestic B.O. hit an all-time record of $11.89B, and easily has a shot at $12B this year. Industry estimates believe that Endgame‘s three-day projection when it opens on April 26 is easily at $250M. Avengers: Infinity War owns the record opening at the domestic B.O. with $257.6M.
“The demand for movies at movie theaters is so high and strong as evidence by the box office in 2018, as evidence by the bookings yesterday for Avengers: Endgame and this incredible slate for 2019,” beamed Aron.
While many at CinemaCon have been obsessed about whether Netflix is successful in shortening the theatrical window or embracing a wide one with Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, that’s not really the current topic of discussion with Aron who is relishing historical results at the B.O. and the fact that his chain saw a 6.9% uptick in attendance per screen.
And despite concerns about Netflix and its potential encroaching on moviegoing, Aron seems the streaming giant and the largest exhibitor in the world competing side by side peacefully, not eating the other up.
“Netflix was in business yesterday and Netflix will be in business when Avengers: Endgame debuts,” says Aron, “Theaters did very well (last year), and Netflix did very well and we lived harmoniously together because there was enough content for the ecosystem to work as it currently is.”
Aron remained mum when asked by Deadline about the current state of negotiations with Netflix over a wide release for The Irishman. Whether the streamer embraces a wide release or not, the domestic box office continues to rocket upward.
State of Affairs With Saudi Arabia
A year ago at CinemaCon, AMC was celebrating the opening of the first movie theater in Saudi Arabia in 37 years (located in Riyadah). While other U.S. exhibitors have plans to join AMC there, the biggest circuit in the world was the first one on the ground with the first cinema license granted by his Excellency Dr. Awwad Al-Awwad, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture. It was a grand occasion: Black Panther was the first film to premiere at the theater with both women and men sitting together. Business has been consistently “packed all year long” said Aron. The Saudi population is largely under 30, a vibrant moviegoing demo.
Then the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi occurred Oct. 2 with many U.S. companies kicking back Saudi investments in protest; WME parent Endeavor being one of the more prolific ones returning $400M from Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (or 10% stake in the company).
Yesterday at an MPAA-NATO press conference, National Association of Theater Owners President John Fithian told reporters that the theater build-up by U.S. exhibs is moving forward: “I’ve spoken to three members this week about their scheduled openings.”
“The idea of having the freedom to see movies in a country that can only help to open up thinking in that country — movies have always been a sword for freedom for a very long time,” said Fithian.
Count AMC among those U.S. businesses in Saudi Arabia that are staying the course in the wake of Khashoggi’s death.
Aron tells Deadline, “A lot of Saudis are going to watch movies every single day. Clearly we’re aware of all that’s transpired in the wake of the news six months ago. We thought long and hard about what we should do and how we should act and after a lot of deliberation, what AMC was doing for the people of Saudi Arabia,the 33M people of Saudi Arabia who could so benefit, is they could get to go to the movies in a movie theater with people all over the rest of the world. We decided to vote with the people of Saudi Arabia.”
Says Aron, “We made the decision to continue, we’re developing new theaters right now. We’re going forward and we expect to open 40-50 theaters across Saudi Arabia in the next 3-5 years.”