37 Days: That’s the Average Window for Wide Releases in 2023, but It’s Not the New Normal

Liem Soeng

37 Days: That’s the Average Window for Wide Releases in 2023, but It’s Not the New Normal

Christopher Nolan’s deal with Universal for “Oppenheimer” included this: The studio, a leader in early release of films to home platforms, would need to make a very big exception.

At 122 days, “Oppenheimer” had the longest theatrical window of 2023. Compared to the year’s 84 other wide releases, it was more than triple the industry average of 37 days. Universal’s second-longest window belonged to “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” which was a bigger hit than Nolan’s film but lost theatrical exclusivity after 41 days.

Studios aren’t interested in specifics around theatrical windows — or, in offering PVOD data beyond top 10 lists that offer neither financial context nor independent verification. This is our attempt to provide a full-year view of theatrical windows, after prior surveys revealed a 30-day average for the first four months of 2023 and 40 days for early summer.

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Seasonal differences can be stark; all five of this January’s releases are now on PVOD, and the month’s window average is just 22 days. And while 37 days is the 2023 average, there are significant nuances between distributors that didn’t exist pre-Covid. Today, there is no “normal.”

Below, we list nine distributors with at least two releases that opened in 1,500 theaters sorted by average window length (longest to shortest). We exclude initial limited releases; these deserve their own analysis in an overview of the specialized market, which will come after the Oscars.

Two standalone releases also deserve mention, both of which grossed over $180 million. “Taylor Swift — The Eras Tour,” released by AMC Theatres, waited 60 days. “Sound of Freedom” made its in-home debut on Angel Studios’ own streamer after 102 days. Including them in the average would raise it to 38 days.

Sophie Thatcher as Sadie Harper in 20th Century Studios' THE BOOGEYMAN. Photo by Patti Perret. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
“The Boogeyman”Patti Perret

1. Disney (including Searchlight Pictures)

Average: 62 days

Longest: “The Boogeyman” (88)

Shortest: “A Haunting in Venice,” “The Creator” (46)

Disney recently offered theaters “Soul” and “Turning Red,” two animated films that switched to Disney + exclusivity at the height of the Covid/streaming madness. Ironically, the studio now has the longest windows by far. All but two of their releases had at least a 60-day window.

Also ironic: This happened in a year when most of its high-end franchise films fell short and the longer time in theaters added little to their grosses.

2. A24

Average: 48 days

Longest: “The Iron Claw” (54)

Shortest: “Talk to Me” (42)

Despite only two initial wide releases (most A24 films have more limited openings), its windows reflect a company-wide strategy to delay PVOD release. That sets the distributor apart from many specialized companies, which normally make titles available at home after less than a month in wide release.

3. Paramount

Average: 42 days

Longest: “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning: Part One” (90)

Shortest: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” (28)

Tom Cruise rivals Christopher Nolan on window-length demands and that’s why Paramount ranks above average for 2023. Without “Mission,” Paramount’s other seven releases had a 35-day average. That extended exclusivity did little for the box office: Cruise’s film added $6 million after 45 days in gross, $1 million after 60.

That’s a significant price to pay for delaying home release, particularly when the $171 million domestic gross proved a significant disappointment against its cost. And for all its efforts, Paramount saw the actor/producer announce a major deal with Warner Bros. and praise the rival studio’s window decisions.

“No Hard Feelings”Sony

4. (tie) Sony

Average: 35 days

Longest: “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (68)

Shortest: “The Pope’s Exorcist” (18)

Sony appears to be quite logical in its choices. It held back “Spider-Verse,” “Anyone but You” (60 days), and “No Hard Feelings” (53), all of which had above average holds and strong word of mouth. Quick playoff films (it had three at 21 days) transitioned quickly.

4. (tie) Open Road

Average: 35 days

Longest: “Marlowe” (49 days)

Shortest: “Kandahar” (21 days)

Unlike Sony, Open Road titles don’t make much of an argument for the wide variance. Neither film (its only two wide releases) grossed more than $5 million.

6. Lionsgate

Average: 31 days

Longest: “Sisu” (70)

Shortest: “Silent Night,” “Plane,” “Joy Ride,” “Operation Fortune: Russe de Guerre” (18)

At 70 days, the Finnish-set World War II “Sisu” is an outlier. More logical was the 60 days for “John Wick: Part 4,” although “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” their second biggest hit, had only 32 days. Eight of their 13 releases were 21 days or fewer.

7. Warner Bros. Discovery

Average: 30 days

Longest: “Barbie,” “Wonka” (53)

Shortest: “Magic Mike’s Last Dance,” “House Party,” “Evil Dead Rise” (18)

“Barbie” was the biggest film of 2023, but 17 wide films from others had longer windows. Based on six months of VOD chart placements, it also appears to be by far the biggest success on these platforms.

WBD is often aggressive. “The Color Purple,” “Shazam: Fury of the Gods,” and “Meg 2: The Trench” all had 21-day windows. Same-day releases on Max are the past.

8. Amazon MGM

Average: 28 days

Longest: “Air” (44)

Shortest: “The Covenant” (18)

Only four wide releases, and “Air” skipped VOD entirely in favor of exclusively streaming on Prime. Otherwise, its titles spent four weeks or less as theatrical exclusives; “Creed 3,” its biggest hit, had 28 days before PVOD.

9. Universal (including Focus Features)

Average: 27 days

Longest: “Oppenheimer” (122)

Shortest: “Five Night’s at Freddy’s” (0)

The studio that pioneered shorter windows managed to both have the longest and shortest last year. “Freddy’s” was the sole wide-release, same-day streaming title — and it still grossed $137 million in domestic theaters.

Take out the anomolous “Oppenheimer” and the studio’s average falls to 21 days. Only four of the combined companies’ 16 releases had more than three weeks of theatrical exclusivity. Even “Fast X,” the most expensive film from any studio last year, went out after 21 days.

Still, the company did delay its two late-year animated titles (“Trolls Band Together” and “Migration”) to 32 days rather than the typical 18. And “Super Mario” had a 41-day window.

10. Neon

Average: 24 days

Longest: “Ferrari” (29)

Shortest: “Infinity Pool” (18)

Only two wide films, but there’s enough consistency to suggest a quicker move to PVOD than their A24 competitor. The strategy made sense: All had grosses below what A24’s mid-level successes.

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