Comscore: 2020 Global Box Office Revenue Plummeted 71%

The global pandemic wreaked havoc on the movie theater business as thousands of screens were ordered shuttered beginning last March to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Global box office plummeted 71% to $12.2 billion, compared with $42.5 billion in 2019, as large percentages of screens remained closed or operating under limited seating restrictions.

New data from Comscore  attempts to put a positive spin on the situation, suggesting that a combination of a well-managed pandemic response coupled with strong local product led to a strong theatrical recovery in many countries in the second half of the year.

Though as expected the results were much lower than in a traditional year, the aforementioned revenue demonstrates that with careful planning, adherence to local health regulations and engaging content, studios and exhibitors found a path to survival even as the world continues to navigate the coronavirus pandemic.

The $2.25 billion performance of the North American box office underscored the fact several new movies found audiences both at the drive-in and in the limited number of brick-and-mortar theaters that were open despite an almost unlimited availability of filmed content at home on the small screen. Films as varied as Tenet, Wonder Woman 1984, The Croods: A New Age, Unhinged and The Wretched drew movie fans to the big screen in 2020.

China has seen the strongest box-office recovery post-lockdown. Initially closing in January 2020, the Chinese market remained closed for a full six months (despite a brief, and quickly abandoned, re-opening in late March). The whole-market return approach seems to have sold the message better to moviegoers, rebuilding a broader consumer confidence more quickly with local titles like The Eight Hundred and My People, My Homeland powering this rebound, both movies generating more than $400 million in revenue.

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Japan, like every other country, was affected by the reduction of worldwide theatrical releases. However, the ability to have local titles (like Demon Slayer: Mugen Train and I’m From Today!) released into the market allowed Japan to continue to operate with a steady stream of films and thus continued to attract audiences.

Like China and JapanSouth Korea has also realized gains from showcasing local product, allowing the Korean market to boast solid results with the appeal of films The Man Standing Next and Deliver Us From Evil reflected in their strong box office performance.

This success was not limited to the Asia Pacific region, other countries such as Spain had success with individual titles such as Padre No Hay Mas Que Uno 2 (Father There Is Only One 2) that back in late-July served to jump-start Spain’s box office by 100% week over week. The film was number one in Spain, in 2020 generating $15.2 million.

“Though the pandemic has caused much disruption to the theatrical business, there are encouraging signs of recovery in many countries around the world,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, said in a statement. “Today we know that audiences are anxious to return to enjoy the theatrical experience, and the many notable successes prove that if cinemas are open and offer great content, moviegoers are indeed excited to watch appealing movies on the big screen.”

New Year’s Weekend ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Box Office Plummets 67%

Warner Bros. Pictures’ Wonder Woman 1984 generated an estimated $5.5 million in domestic weekend box office revenue through Jan. 3 — down about 67% from the previous weekend tally of $16.7 million, according to industry data. WW84, which stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and Kristen Wiig, has sold about $28.5 million in tickets in the U.S. and entered the weekend with more than $100 million in global revenue — about half of the movie’s production budget. The movie is playing in about 40% of available U.S. screens due to the ongoing pandemic.

The theatrical drop underscores the fact the sequel to the 2017 Wonder Woman is also available to stream on HBO Max for the next 21 days.

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Universal Pictures again dominated the majority of the first 2021 weekend Top 10 box office titles, led by The Croods: A New Age with an estimated $2 million in ticket sales. The DreamWorks Animation sequel has generated $34.4 million in the U.S.; $102 million worldwide since its release Nov. 25, 2020.

Other titles included Tom Hanks-starrer News of the World with $1.5 million ($5.2 million total); Screen Gems’ Monster Hunter ($1.1 million/$10.9 million globally); Focus Features’ Promising Young Woman ($630,000/$1.8 million); Lionsgate’s Fatale ($610,000/$3 million); Roadside Attractions’ Pinocchio ($743,000/$21.2 million globally); 101 Studios’ The War With Grandpa ($115,000/$31.5 million worldwide); Universal’s Come Play ($51,000/$11.8 million globally); and Freaky ($41,000/$14.8 million worldwide).

Walt Disney Studios’ re-release of 1979 sci-fi thriller Alien, starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton and John Hurt, generated $125,000 worldwide.

Meanwhile, Allan Reagan, CEO of the Flix Brewhouse theatrical chain in Texas, told CNBC he expects the moviegoing attendance to permanently decline from 15% to 25% in 2022 despite the various virus vaccine coming on the market.

“That’s the way we’re gaming this out permanently,” Reagan said.

Movie Theater Stocks Take Pre-Market ‘Wonder Woman’ Bounce

With the relative release success of Wonder Woman 1984 suggesting consumers are willing to return to movie theaters during the pandemic, stocks of the publicly traded exhibitors inched higher in Dec. 28 pre-market trading.

Shares of AMC Entertainment and Cinemark Holdings, representing the No. 1 and No. 3 theatrical chains in the U.S., climbed 5.6% and 1.8%, respectively. No. 2 exhibitor Regal Cinemas remains temporarily shuttered. Separately, EPR Properties, landlord to many movie complexes, saw shares inch up 0.7%.

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In addition, Cinedigm, which has been looking to offload its digital projection business, saw shares increase 2.2% following the WW84 weekend.

The uptick comes as the exhibition business reels from the ongoing pandemic that has seen theatrical revenue plummet 80% heading into the Wonder Woman 1984 holiday weekend. AMC Theatres, the world’s largest exhibitor has been operating on the edge of bankruptcy, with cash reserves expected to run out in January without an uptick to business or outside funding.

Eric Wold, analyst with B. Riley Securities, said the relative early box office success of WW84, driven by more than 10,000 private watch parties, underscores the appeal of large screen exhibitions for the right movie.

“When consumers are allowed back to theaters with attractive content, they will once again become moviegoers,” Wold wrote.

Shawn Robbins, analyst at Boxoffice Pro, said that with WarnerMedia’s decision to release WW84 on HBO Max simultaneously with its theatrical debut, the jury remains out on the strategy’s impact on Hollywood and exhibitors.

“We’ll have to continue waiting until next year to truly gauge how studios feel about this strategy and for how much longer they’ll deem it necessary,” Robbins told Bloomberg. “This film alone may not be a great barometer to go by.”

Universal Ups Year-End Theatrical Slate; Studying Release-Window Data

Universal Pictures is doubling the number of movies it plans to release in theaters before the end of the year. The studio made waves earlier this year putting erstwhile theatrical release Trolls World Tour into homes via premium VOD in April. That was followed by a 17-day theatrical window/revenue-sharing PVOD agreement with AMC Theatres — Universal’s way of throwing the ailing exhibitor business a lifeline.

While the studio, like most majors, has pushed back numerous tentpole titles to 2021, including most-recently the next “Fast & Furious” installment, F9, to Memorial Day 2021, Universal will release at least seven movies at the box office through the end of the year — more than any other major studio.

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Upcoming theatrical releases include Let Him Go (Nov. 6),  Freaky (Nov. 13), The Croods: A New Age (Nov. 25), All My Life and Half Brothers (Dec. 4), and News of the World and Promising Young Woman (Dec. 25). Freaky and The Croods will also be available on PVOD 21 days and 28 days, respectively, after their box office debut.

“They need us; we need them,” Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, remarked about exhibitors in a media statement. “Everyone is looking for solutions during the pandemic for the short term and long term.”

Liam Neeson Drama ‘Honest Thief’ Tops Another Quiet Domestic Weekend Box Office

Open Roads Films’ thriller Honest Thief, starring Liam Neeson, finished atop another subdued domestic weekend box office, generating $3.7 million in North American ticket sales Oct. 16-18. Neeson plays a burglar who turns himself in, only to be double-crossed by the FBI.

The previous week’s topper, The War With Grandpa, starring Robert De Niro, finished second with $2.5 million. The movie from 101 Studios has generated $7.3 million in 10 days. Warner Bros.’ Tenet, from director Christopher Nolan, ended third on the weekend with $1.6 million, upping its domestic theatrical take to $50.6 million.

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U.S. movie ticket sales continue to be hamstrung by coronavirus pandemic-related theater closures in key markets and social distancing protocols in cinemas operating. In addition, studios continue to push back into 2021 major new tentpole releases living operating theaters with lower profile movies and re-releases.

Indeed, Disney re-releases The Nightmare Before Christmas and Hocus Pocus finished fourth and fifth over the weekend with $1.3 million and $756,000 in ticket sales, respectively.

Analyst: Lackluster Weekend Box Office Could See Studios Further Delay New Releases

With Warner Bros.’ Tenet generating $30 million at the domestic box office over two weekends, and Disney’s Mulan almost surpassed by a local sci-fi film (The Eight Hundred) at the Chinese box office, the jury remains out on the state of the theatrical market’s return to normal from the coronavirus pandemic.

The third-quarter domestic box office is trending down 96.8% quarter-to-date to $101.1 million compared with the previous-year period, as theaters nationwide only recently began re-opening — and at reduced capacity. The latest box office weekend was 89% lower than the comparable weekend last year, according to industry figures.

The sluggish re-start, coupled with a majority of screens still dark in major markets New York and California, suggests studios will reconsider bowing major new releases in any great numbers in the near future, according to Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

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Indeed, Warner just pushed back again the theatrical bow of Wonder Woman 1984 from Oct. 2 to Dec. 25 — more than a year after the sequel’s original launch date. Subsequent release dates included June4 and Aug. 14.

Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Tony Vinciquerra last week told an investor event the studio would delay all major releases until 2021.

“What we won’t do is make the mistake of putting a very, very expensive $200 million movie out in the market unless we’re sure that theaters are open and operating at significant capacity,” Vinciquerra said.

Pachter says that trend will only grow as nervous studios contend with wary moviegoers and local government restrictions.

“We think the relatively lackluster second theatrical week for Tenet juxtaposed with the difficulty Disney has faced with Mulan has made film releases seem like a risky business in the current environment,” Pachter wrote in a Sept. 14 note.

The uncertainty is bound to increase pressure on studios to shorten the 90-day theatrical window and seek alternative distribution channels such premium and transactional VOD. The COVID-19 era has produced unusual circumstances (and opportunities) for studios, including dabbling in direct-to-consumer distribution.

The ongoing interest for at-home content could impact long-term decisions by studios regarding which content they send to theaters and which goes direct to streaming platforms, according to Pachter.

“This is particularly compelling for the studios that have launched or will soon launch their own subscription/ad-supported streaming video platforms,” he wrote.


Disney’s ‘Mulan’ PVOD Experiment Goes Live

The Walt Disney Co.’s much-publicized toe-dipping into premium video-on-demand waters began Sept. 4 with the availability of the live-action Mulan remake on subscription streaming service Disney+. The movie, which costs a one-time $29.99 “Premier Access” fee in addition to the $6.99 monthly Disney+ subscription, will stream for free to subs on Dec. 4.

The movie is available via the Disney+ app on Google Play, Roku and Apple TV platforms. The title is also available through the app on Amazon Fire TV, the e-commerce behemoth confirmed Sept. 4. Once purchased, access to Mulan remains eternal “as as long as you are an active Disney Plus subscriber,” according to Disney.

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Disney, a longtime supporter of the traditional theatrical release window, opted for PVOD distribution for the reported $200 million Mulan production after repeated theatrical delays due to the coronavirus pandemic. In making the announcement, Disney CEO Bob Chapek reiterated the company’s support for the box office going forward.

The movie will have limited theatrical distribution in regions without Disney+ access, including China.

“We’re looking at Mulan as a one-off, as opposed to saying there’s some new business windowing model that we’re looking at,” Chapek said last month on the company’s fiscal call.

Mulan, about a young female warrior (Yifei Liu) who disguises herself as a man in the Imperial Army in place of her ailing father, has received positive reviews, including 81% approval on Rotten Tomatoes.

Paramount’s ‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run’ Topped Re-Opening Weekend Box Office

Paramount Animation’s The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, the third installment in the cartoon movie franchise that saw its theatrical debut earlier this year scuttled due to the coronavirus pandemic, quietly topped the domestic weekend (Aug. 14-16) box office with $900,000 in ticket sales across 300 screens, according to Box Office Mojo.

The weekend saw several major movie exhibitors, including Cinemark, AMC Theatres and Regal, re-open select screens across the country showing largely catalog fare and some new releases. In total, there were more than 1,000 screens operating across the country, including Imax.

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Sponge on the Run, which had been delayed twice at the box office since its original May 22 debut, had most-recently been taken off Paramount’s theatrical slate and scheduled for premium VOD release and CBS All Access in 2021.

Other top performing titles last weekend included The Tax Collector, which generated $203,000 in ticket sales in its second week of release from AMC Networks’ RLJ Entertainment. The Shia LaBeouf starrer has sold more than $634,000 in tickets since its debut. The Rental sold $78,000 in ticket sales for $1.65 million in worldwide box office revenue since its July 24 debut from director/star David Franco.

The Big Ugly (Vertical Entertainment), Made in Italy (IFC Films) and Sony Pictures Classic’s The Burnt Orange Heresy generated $24,000, $21,000 and $14,500 in ticket sales, respectively. The films have generated a combined $671,000 at the domestic box office over the past 24 weeks.

Sony Pictures’ Bad Boys for Life remains the top-grossing box office title in 2020 with $204.4 million in ticket sales since its Jan. 17 debut.

Home Entertainment: Studio Fiscal Lifeline During Pandemic

NEWS ANALYSIS — Throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, much has been reported about home entertainment’s fiscal resurgence as increasing numbers of consumers purchase or rent video entertainment in the home rather than frequent (now shuttered) movie theaters.

Last week the proof was in the pudding as the last of the major studios reported quarterly fiscal results for the three-month period that ended June 30 — and began April 1, two weeks after theaters closed.

Excluding Warner Bros., five studios (Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate, Disney and Universal Pictures) reported combined theatrical revenue of $68.3 million.

By comparison, home entertainment segments of the aforementioned studios generated a combined $1.35 billion in revenue. That’s more than Warner’s outlying $1 billion in theatrical revenue. Studios’ theatrical segments remain under siege as the coronavirus pandemic keeps movie theaters largely closed and production idle.

Indeed, home entertainment results topped the previous-year period by 13.4%, when the five studios collectively generated $1.19 billion in Q2 revenue.

That means consumers actually spent more money on transactional home entertainment (from those five studios) during the second quarter of 2020 than they did in Q2 of 2019, when there was plenty of high-profile theatrical product available — including Aquaman, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Bumblebee and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

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“As long as people are literally stuck in neutral at home, they are going to be consuming a much-greater-than-average number of over-the-top transactional rentals and sales because the [theatrical] options are so limited,” Paul Dergarabedian, analyst with Comscore, said in a statement.

Indeed, the second-quarter domestic box office ended down 99.9% year-over-year to $3.69 million, as most domestic screens remained closed throughout the quarter.

“Theatrical revenue was immaterial in the quarter,” Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS, said on his company’s fiscal call.

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Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter expects the 2020 box office to end significantly lower than the last two years as theater re-openings sputter and several tentpole movie releases were moved to 2021 or removed from the theatrical release slate indefinitely.

Following AMC Theatres and Universal Pictures’ landmark agreement to partner on premium video-on-demand releases in the home just 17 days after a movie’s theatrical debut, home entertainment is expected to get an additional, if not limited, boost going forward.

Pachter thinks the AMC/Universal deal is a band-aid for a mortal wound, trying to capture some revenue in an environment where theatrical exhibition is unlikely for the next six months.

“When the results are in, the other studios will adopt the model if successful, and will criticize Universal if not,” he wrote in a note. “I don’t expect it to succeed.”

NBCUniversal CEO: PVOD Addresses ‘Very Large’ Non-Theatrical Audience

Universal Pictures’ landmark distribution agreement with the nation’s largest exhibitor AMC Theatres, enabling it to sell and rent digital access to new-release movies in the home entertainment market just 17 days after their box office, debut taps into a largely unserved consumer, according to NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell.

Speaking July 30 on the Comcast fiscal call, Shell thanked AMC CEO Adam Aron for “his vision” in working together — rather than against — Universal to create new business model and revenue opportunities for both companies.

“We’ve always believed PVOD can be a complement rather than a replacement for a robust theatrical release,” Shell said, adding that the studio has always believed there’s a growing segment of the population that does not go to the movie theater.

“Over the last couple of years, it’s become more increasingly difficult to generate the same returns over the first couple of windows,” he said. “We believe the new model in the U.S. will restore some of those economics, probably not make more movies, but keep production levels the same as in the past.”

Shell said the advantage to the shortened 17-day box office is that PVOD and transactional VOD marketing can be done in the same window.

“It allows us to tap into that incremental [transactional VOD] revenue stream, share it with AMC and other exhibitors, and at the same time preserve that theatrical window that is so critical to the film business,” he said.