Report: 2023 Global Box Office to Reach $29 Billion — 30% Below Pre-Pandemic 2019

Analysis from Gower Street Analytics suggests the 2023 worldwide box office will improve to a projected $29 billion in ticket sales from an estimated 2022 total of $25.8 billion.

Still, the 2023 projection is more than 30% below pre-pandemic 2019 box office revenue of $42.3 billion — a banner year for theaters in which Disney/Marvel alone accounted for a record $11 billion in ticket sales.

The 2023 projection would represent a 12% gain over the current year estimate. The gain would be smaller than the 21% rise in ticket sales this year compared to 2021, according to Gower.

With 20th Century Studios’ much-anticipated sequel Avatar: The Way of Water expected to boost the 2022 global box office in its final days, the year is still projected to end nearly 40% below 2019.

This year has been impacted by a $3 billion lower Chinese box office (compared to 2021); Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which resulted in U.S. studio boycotts of Russia; and a fluctuating foreign exchange rate that has resulted in U.S. studios realizing $1 billion less in revenue.

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The report suggests Hollywood will have to wait until at least 2024 to see a full return to pre-pandemic global box office levels. Indeed, the 2023 forecast is 27% behind the average of the last three pre-pandemic years (2017-19) at current exchange rates (this would rise to 30% compared to historic rates).

The North American market is projected to see a 12% increase in 2023 ($8.6 billion) over 2022 ($7.65 billion) but still lag 25% behind an average of the last three pre-pandemic years. The Asia Pacific (excluding China) and Latin America regions are both expected to gain 11% to 12%, respectively, from 2022, and finish 20% down on the pre-pandemic average. Europe, the Middle East and Africa are expected to increase revenue about 7% on 2022, and finish 30% behind the pre-pandemic average due to the Russia situation.

“With a lesser-known advance release calendar and continued uncertainty around access for import titles and changing COVID policy, China remains the market that is hardest to predict,” read the report. “We are currently projecting $5.55 billion [in revenue] for China, a rise on 2022, but well short of its 2021 figure.”

2021 Global Box Office Projected to Reach $20.2 Billion — 58% Less Than Pre-Pandemic

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.