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Bad News For Nightmare Alley: Why Showings Of The Guillermo Del Toro Film Are Being Cancelled For Spider-Man: No Way Home

Bradley Cooper blindfolded in the middle of his mentalist act in Nightmare Alley.
(Image credit: Searchlight Pictures)

Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley is getting strong reviews from critics and from the fans who have seen it. However, what it is not doing is setting the box office on fire. Unfortunately, it’s not looking like that’s going to be changing, even with the positive word of mouth. That's because the number of screenings of Nightmare Alley are reportedly being slashed in order to put Spider-Man: No Way Home on more screens. And many are blaming Disney for doing this to itself.

Nightmare Alley opened just this past Friday, the same day as Spider-Man: No Way Home, but some are reporting that showings of Nightmare Alley are already difficult to come by. This isn’t going to help the movie’s success, as it makes it difficult to see the movie even for those who would like to do so. 

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While it’s certainly not unusual to have movies see the number of showings reduced when they’re underperforming, that usually doesn’t start until the end of the first week at the absolute earliest. But in some markets, this seems to be happening only days after the movie opened. 

What makes the whole thing interesting is that while Spider-Man: No Way Home is a Sony production, it’s made in conjunction with Marvel Studios, and Nightmare Alley is a Searchlight production, which means it’s actually a Disney movie, as it’s from one of the studios that came with the Fox purchase. This means that Nightmare Alley and No Way Home are pitting Disney against itself in some capacity. Technically Nightmare Alley getting its screenings reduced would be bad news for Disney, and one assumes the studio would not want to see that. And if any studio has power to make things happen at theaters, it's Disney.

It’s not entirely widespread; a quick peek at showtimes in my own Northern California market shows three, four, and even five screenings a day for Nightmare Alley at every multiplex where it is available. Spider-Man: No Way Home hasn’t completely cannibalized every screen in every town, but it does seem to be happening in some places.  

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Of course, Disney could have moved the release date for Nightmare Alley, but clearly chose not to do that. We see studios moving release dates all the time to try to give movies the best possible shot at success, and that’s all the more true these days. 

Whether this was an attempt at counter-programming or the decision, as is sometimes made, to cut a movie loose because it was decided success was unlikely, it seems like Nightmare Alley is becoming a self fulfilling prophecy, as the movie isn’t going to do well at all if nobody can see it.  

Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.