September 14, 2021
First, the good news: Moviegoers are returning to the cineplex. The 2021 global year-to-date box office (excluding China) has reached $12 billion, matching full-year 2020, and is projected to top $20.2 billion by the end of the year, according to new data from Gower Street Analytics.
Now the bad: The revenue projection is 58% less than the average pre-pandemic box office tally from 2017 to 2019, according to the London-based research firm.
As of Sept. 11, Gower Street contends the international box office (excluding China) stood at $5.22 billion, with the U.S. box office at $2.31 billion and China at $5.13 billion.
The firm estimates the international box office will end 2021 at about $9.05 billion — including $4.3 billion from Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), $3.85 billion from Asia Pacific (excluding China), and $902 million from Latin America.
The final four months of 2020 generated about $4.4 billion globally despite significant theaters remaining closed. At the start of September 2020, 75% of movie theaters were operating. Within that number only 32% of Latin America was open and only a little over 50% (56%) of the U.S. market (California and New York among those still closed).
The global number would rise to a 2020-peak of 79% at the start of October, before sinking back to 70% at the start of November and 60% at the start of December. By early December, cinemas open by market share across the EMEA region had fallen to just over 30% and in the U.S. to 40%. By the close of the year only 56% of global cinemas were operating.
Currently in 2021, 87.65% of global cinemas, as measured by market share, are operating, according to Gower Street. This is just below the 87.7% peak seen at the close of July. As of Sept. 11, the domestic market stood at 84.5%; China at 91%; Asia Pacific at 80% — with cinemas outside of Auckland re-opening in New Zealand and cinemas allowed to begin re-opening in Malaysia this past weekend; EMEA at 93%; and Latin America at 92%. Collectively the international market (excluding China) shows 88% of cinemas, by pre-pandemic market share, currently operating.
While there have been some recent losses to the release calendar, most notably the move of Paramount Pictures’ Top Gun: Maverick back to May 2022, as well as a few more titles opting for day-and-date theatrical and VOD releases that will inevitably reduce theatrical returns (including MGM/United Artists Releasing’s The Addams Family 2 and Universal Pictures’ Halloween Kills) there are plenty of highly-anticipated titles on offer.
Following the recent and ongoing theatrical success of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Disney confirmed the rest of its 2021 slate would receive exclusive theatrical runs. Other big releases in the fourth quarter: MGM’s latest James Bond adventure No Time to Die; Sony Pictures’ super-anti-hero sequel Venom: Let There Be Carnage; new titles from filmmakers Wes Anderson (The French Dispatch), Edgar Wright (Last Night in SoHo), and Denis Villeneuve (Dune); Jason Reitman’s continuation of his father Ivan’s 1980s’ hit franchise Ghostbusters: Afterlife; the return of Keanu Reeves’s Neo in The Matrix: Resurrections; and Marvel’s Spider-Man: No Way Home.