Summer Box Office Champ ‘Barbie,’ But Fall Looks Bleak — Even With Taylor Swift


Hollywood’s summer cinema business saw a 19% surge in revenue to $4 billion despite a smaller number of wide-released films compared to 2019. The traditional summer movie season, which runs from the first Friday in May to Labor Day weekend, usually accounts for 40% of annual movie ticket sales. While studios typically release blockbuster franchise sequels and action-packed films during this time, original content like “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” drove the industry’s revenue growth this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted film production and led to a decline in the number of wide-released films this summer, with 10 fewer than in 2019. However, the 2023 summer box office only trailed pre-pandemic levels by 5.9%, or just over $200 million, according to Comscore data.

Notably, costly franchise installments like “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One,” “The Flash,” “Fast X,” and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” underperformed, generating less than $200 million each in the US and Canada.

In contrast, “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” captured audience attention with original storytelling. “Barbie” raked in $612.3 million, accounting for 15% of the total summer box office.

Despite the successful summer season, the industry faces challenges ahead, including ongoing labor strikes that have disrupted production schedules and the release calendar. This thinning of the release calendar poses challenges for theater owners and audiences eager to see delayed films.

While the overall box office from January through Labor Day is up 25% from last year, it still lags behind 2019 levels by 13%. With several films, including “Dune: Part Two” and “Kraven the Hunter,” delayed until 2024 due to strikes, the fall movie season is expected to be tepid.