Analyst: 2021 Box Office Trending Up From 2020, Down From 2019

The recent domestic box office success of Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place Part II and Universal Pictures’ F9: The Fast Saga has jumpstarted the exhibition business, with theater operators on track to see 2021 revenue increase 120% from pandemic-addled 2020, according to media analyst Michael Pachter.

Year-to-date revenue has topped $1 billion, which is down about 41% from 2020, but the gap is expected to close and ultimately surpass last year’s tally as the year progresses with the debut of Disney/Marvel Studios’ Black Widow, among others.

Michael Pachter

The Wedbush Securities analyst, in a June 29 note, said the current month’s box office receipts of $368 million represent “a vast improvement” from the $4 million in ticket sales North American theaters mustered during June 2020.

Pacter said that while the vaccine rollout and a steady stream of summer blockbuster movies portends a strong industry rebound, the month’s revenue is still 68% below June 2019 box office receipts — underscoring the long path toward normalization theaters face.

Then again, the 2019 box office was an outlier as Disney alone generated a record $13.2 billion in revenue on the back of its expansive Marvel/Lucasfilm/Pixar IP portfolio.

“We expect [publicly traded exhibitor] shares to mostly trade higher this week after a reassuringly strong opening weekend for F9,” Pachter wrote. “While there was some additional release slate movement by Warner Bros. late last week, this appeared to be typical shifting to maximize profitability against competing releases, and not related to studio concerns about attendance trends.”

Warner last week pushed back again the release of big-budget sci-fi movie Dune to Oct. 22 from Sept. 22. The studio moved up to Sept. 17 Clint Eastwood’s Cry Macho, while “The Sopranos” prequel, The Many Saints of Newark, now fills the Oct. 1 slot.

Pachter cautioned that the exhibition business remains volatile dealing with merger and acquisition scuttlebutt, COVID variants gaining steam, and competing streaming services.

“There is plenty of theatrical content originally slated for 2020 to fill the 2021 release slate and spill over into 2022,” Pachter wrote. “However, streaming services are competing at the highest levels for content to bolster their offerings in an extremely competitive environment as content was consumed at heightened levels throughout 2020. [This trend] has continued through the first half of 2021.”

Cinemark Announces New Deals With Studios to Exhibit Movies Theatrically

Cinemark, the nation’s No. 3 movie theater chain, May 7 announced it has reached agreements to theatrically showcase films from five major studio partners across its U.S. screens.

This announcement builds upon the exhibitor’s November agreement with Universal Pictures and includes agreements with Warner Bros. Pictures, The Walt Disney Co., Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Collectively, the agreements secure a consistent supply of content and demonstrate a shared commitment to offering consumers the ultimate movie-viewing experience, with compelling content exhibited within the theatrical environment, according to Cinemark.

The agreements come on the heels of Cinemark inking distribution of Netflix original movies in an abbreviated theatrical window — the first for the streamer. Cinemark isn’t divulging specifics on the studio deals, citing “unique attributes” specific to each studio that mutually benefits both parties.

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With many studios also operating direct-to-consumer distribution through streaming and premium VOD, exhibitors are having to re-visit legacy theatrical window agreements to remake them to better reflect the changing consumer access to screen entertainment.

“In our ongoing efforts to maximize attendance and box office during the pandemic and beyond, our goal is to provide the widest range of content with terms that are in the best long-term interests of Cinemark, our studio partners and moviegoers,” CEO Mark Zoradi said in a statement. “We are pleased with these recent developments and are confident we are taking positive steps toward reigniting theatrical exhibition and evolving the industry for a post-pandemic landscape.”

The new distribution agreements come as Cinemark attempts to claw its way out of a financial hole caused by the pandemic. The chain said it attracted 7.7 million moviegoers and $114.5 million in revenue in the first quarter (ended March 31). That compared with $543.6 million in revenue during the previous-year period. Its net loss ballooned to $208.2 million, compared with a loss of $59.6 million in the previous year period.

‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Continues Pandemic Box Office Domination; Tops $350 Million Globally

Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Entertainment’s monster sequel Godzilla vs. Kong continued its pandemic haul, generating an estimated $13.3 million at more than 3,000 U.S. theaters through April 11, bringing its box office tally to $69 million domestically, $350 million worldwide. Notably, the domestic revenue comes as the movie is concurrently available to subscribers on HBO Max for 31 days.

The global tally is rapidly approaching Warner’s Tenet, which tracked more than $363 million in global ticket sales.

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“We’re thrilled that Godzilla vs. Kong is bringing audiences back into theaters where they are open around the world, and also delivering for our HBO Max subscribers in their homes here in the U.S.,” Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, said in a statement. “It’s truly a pleasure for all of us at Warner Bros. and HBO Max to be able to thank and congratulate Adam, Legendary and the entire GvK team on the great results for this terrific movie.”

Other top 10 theatrical titles included Universal Pictures’ Nobody with $2.65 million ($15.6 million) at 2,400 theaters ; Sony Pictures’ The Unholy with $2.4 million ($6.7 million) at 1,850 theaters; Disney/Pixar’s Raya and the Last Dragon with $2.14 million ($35.2 million) at 1,941 theaters; Lionsgate’s Voyagers with $1.35 million;  Warner’s Tom & Jerry with $1.11 million ($41.1 million) at 1,826  theaters; Atlas Distribution’s The Girl Who Believes in Miracles with $597,000/$1.3 million; The Courier (RSA) with $436,500 ($4.9 million) at 1,007 theaters; Vakeel Saab with $411,500; Lionsgate’s Chaos Walking with $265,000 ($12.67 million).