Entertainment

Has World Cup Mania Kicked Americans Out of Movie Theaters?


28,000 fans gather at Soldier Field in Chicago to watch USA take on Belgium in a World Cup match being played at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil on July 1

Photograph by Scott Olson/Getty Images

28,000 fans gather at Soldier Field in Chicago to watch USA take on Belgium in a World Cup match being played at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil on July 1

A soccer tournament is going on in Brazil this summer, and at least until Tuesday it has managed to draw no small amount of attention in the U.S. At the same time, summer box office receipts are down. Whether the two are related is an open question.

From the first Friday in May through June 30, total North American box office sales sank nearly 15 percent from the same period last year, according to Rentrak.

As the chart above shows, totals sales so far this year are a bit more than $2 billion. By this point in 2013, they were at 2.4 billion. Last summer turned out to be a record-setting season on the strength of such sequels as Iron Man 3, Fast & Furious 6, and Despicable Me 2.

The safest explanation for box office success or failure is usually the movies on offer. “For me, it always just comes down to the product,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. The new Transformers movie, Dergarabedian notes, sold a strong $100 million in tickets in its opening weekend while competing against the World Cup.

Yet studios do take into account external events that could keep people away from theaters, and the World Cup is a major draw for a full month. The release date for Transformers: Age of Extinction was delayed in many countries on account of it.

It’s also possible that studios are saving bullets for next year, which is expected to be the biggest yet with releases from the Bond, Avengers, Superman, and Hunger Games franchises. Says Dergarabedian: “2015 looks like it is going to be the box office equivalent of the 100-year flood.” .
Sometimes, though, the best guesses are wrong. Brazil expected to have empty theaters during the World Cup this year. They’ve been packed instead, thanks to The Fault in Our Stars and How to Train Your Dragon 2, which turned out to be perfect counterprogramming for soccer mania.

Boudway_190
Boudway is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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