Barbenheimer makes waves for movie spending, but box office recovery still lags behind

US viewers also shell out money for Taylor Swift and Beyonce tours this summer

Barbenheimer and popular summer music tours opened wallets for movies and live events. AFP
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Barbenheimer” – the twin-bill summer box office phenomenon – helped to drive US people back to cinemas last month, but movie-going is still struggling to catch up to other recreational spending categories after the pandemic.

Outlays for movie theatre-going grew in July at an annualised rate of nearly 11 per cent from June, outshining the spending gains last month at sporting events and concerts or live theatre, data out on Thursday from the Commerce Department showed.

Total consumer spending increased a stronger-than-expected 0.8 per cent last month.

The releases of Warner Bros' Barbie and Universal's Oppenheimer, marketed as an unlikely double feature, spurred ticket sales and continued to defy what is typically an end-of-summer slump.

While that helped box office receipts, it made less of a splash for overall consumer spending when compared to larger categories such as clothing and household furnishings, economists at Oxford Economics said.

“'Barbenheimer' appears to have had only a limited direct impact on spending last month, with the outsize $700 million annualised, or 11 per cent, increase in real spending at movie theatres only a small part of July's gain,” said Michael Pearce, leading US economist.

How long that momentum lasts is uncertain amid continuing strikes by actors and writers, which have clouded the outlook for new releases.

While other categories of live-event spending have fully recovered from the hit delivered by pandemic shutdowns, the amount paid for movie tickets remains at about 65 per cent of its pre-Covid levels.

Sporting events were the first to rebound, and live performance admissions came through after that, with concertgoers – many spending about $1,300 a show on Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour – making an impact.

That tour is projected to generate $5 billion in economic growth for the US econom,y according to market researcher QuestionPro.

The tour prompted attention from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, which said Swifties, as Swift's fans call themselves, drove up hotel revenue in the city.

Beyonce's Bey Hive is also shelling out big bucks for tickets to her Renaissance Tour.

The tour took $295 million through her August 1 show at Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts, according to Billboard Boxscore.

Updated: September 01, 2023, 12:55 AM