Still image from Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse
Source: Sony Pictures
Movie fans apparently can’t get enough of superheroes.
A trio of upcoming Marvel movies − the newest installments of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man and Ant-Man franchises − are the top three most anticipated films for 2023, according to a new survey by Fandango.
Moviegoers also said they plan to head to theaters more often than they did this year, according to the survey, which was conducted in early December and is based on responses from more than 5,000 movie fans who bought at least one ticket in 2022.
“Anybody that is at this point saying that there is Marvel fatigue or superhero fatigue is clearly not the ones going to the movies,” said Erik Davis, managing director of Fandango, the movie and TV information and ticketing site.
The survey indicates a big appetite for familiar characters and universes. Many of the most-anticipated films are prequels, sequels or films otherwise connected to a well-known franchise. It marks the second consecutive year that franchises dominated Fandango’s most-anticipated list.
2023’s Top 10 Most-Anticipated Movies Across Categories
1. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” (Disney)
2. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (Sony)
3. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” (Disney)
4. “John Wick: Chapter 4” (Lionsgate)
5. “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (Disney)
6. “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” (Warner Bros.)
7. “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” (Paramount)
8. “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of the Songbirds and Snakes” (Lionsgate)
9. “Creed III” (MGM)
10. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” (Universal)
Among the top 10 overall most anticipated films, only “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” isn’t part of an established movie series. But even that film comes with the name recognition of the popular video game franchise and coincides with the opening of Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios in California.
Some nonfranchise films with more mid-tier budgets, such as “Cocaine Bear” and “M3gan,” still made some of the separate, category-specific lists. “Cocaine Bear,” a dark comedy about a bear that consumes cocaine and goes on a murderous rampage, is the third most-anticipated live-action comedy. “M3gan,” which is about a lifesize AI doll that turns evil, is the fifth most-anticipated horror movie.
“I definitely think that there’s room for smaller films to make a lot of noise,” said Davis. “But I think coming into a brand-new year – and this is not a new thing – it’s these larger films, these big sequels, these big anticipated franchises that people are really looking forward to most.”
For Hollywood, the wave of big franchise releases in 2023 could signal the desire for stability after the industry was rattled by Covid pandemic disruptions.
Franchises and legacy films are “a box-office insurance policy,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore. “I think studios are always risk-averse and the greatest insurance is that at least people will know what the movie is about.”
Most movie watchers also said they plan to be in theaters more often in 2023 than they were this year, with 84% saying they intend to see at least six films in a movie theater. Last year, 80% said they wanted to see a minimum of five movies in theaters.
The survey findings are promising for theaters, which have been struggling with a lack of new releases since the pandemic, when people hunkered down at home to stream movies instead. Forty fewer films were widely released in 2022 than in 2019, according to data from Comscore.
This year, the latest big blockbuster in theaters is “Avatar: The Way of Water.” The film opened on Sunday and made $134 million at the domestic box office, less than the $175 million analysts expected.
The drought of new releases in theaters could be less severe in 2023, with more than 100 new movies set for release, including the highest number of blockbusters since 2019, according to Davis.
“The good news for next year is you’re going to have a lot more movies consistently released,” echoed Dergarabedian.
Some big players in the entertainment industry want to reestablish movie viewing as an in-person experience. When Warner Media and Discovery merged in April, the new regime recommitted to theater-only releases and reduced its production of straight-to-streaming films.
For example, Warner Bros. Discovery reversed course on “Magic Mike’s Last Dance,” which was originally going to be released exclusively on HBO Max but is now set for the big screens in February. The pivot came after Warner Bros. Discovery had already axed “Batgirl,” which was also planned as an HBO Max-exclusive debut.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of CNBC and NBCUniversal, which owns Fandango. NBCUniversal is the distributor of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” “Cocaine Bear” and “M3gan.”