December 2, 2023

With great movies, come great marketing costs.

Sony Pictures’ profit tumbled 68 percent in April to June 2023, which is when “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (June 2, 2023) began tearing up the town. The Wednesday presentation of Sony’s fiscal Q1 2023 earnings referred to the decline in operating income as “significant.” We’d say so.

There were two contributing factors to the Pictures segment’s profit sinking by about 34.7 billion yen vs. the comparable quarter last year. First and foremost was a 21 billion yen (or -6 percent) decrease in sales. But don’t go judging the box office performance based on that stat. Theatrical revenues were actually up — just not enough to overcome lower licensing revenue from streamers and a poorer U.S. television series delivery.

The second issue was marketing costs. A larger number of theatrical releases (though fewer tentpoles) this time meant a higher amount spent on advertising those films.

Riley Keough in "Under the Silver Lake"

Of particular note, in addition to the latest “Spider-Verse,” Sony also released Bert Kreischer’s “The Machine” (May 26) and Jennifer Lawrence’s “No Hard Feelings” (June 23) in the quarter.

In Wednesday’s earliest hours (here), Sony shared one last bit of bad news from its motion pictures segment. The company revised its previous full-year (fiscal) 2023 sales forecast downward by 50 billion yen, or -3 percent, blaming the writers and actors strikes for likely theatrical-release-date changes and delays in delivering TV productions.

Hey, at least the foreign-exchange rates should be favorable.

“Although it is unclear when the strikes in Hollywood will end, we aim to work with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to negotiate a resolution with the unions as soon as possible so that we can restart normal production activity,” Sony executives said as part of their presentation’s prepared remarks.

To date, “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” — the sequel to 2018’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” — has crossed $680 million in global box office. That makes it Sony’s highest-grossing animated film ever. (“Into the Spider-Verse” did a hair under $385 million globally.)

Threequel movie “Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse” was originally supposed to come out next year. At the moment, it has been delayed indefinitely due to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.

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