AMC, Cinemark, Imax Tout Best Monthly Box Office (October) Since Pandemic Began

Despite a sluggish Halloween box office with the annual trick-or-treat event falling on a Sunday, AMC Theatres, Cinemark and Imax said the month of October was their highest monthly box office since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Data firm Box Office Mojo said October revenue across all domestic exhibitors neared $622 million, which was the highest monthly total since the $638 million generated in February 2020.

Leawood, Kan.-based AMC, which touts itself as the largest exhibitor in the world with 950 locations and 10,500 screens, said the month was also the highest in ticket sales in Europe and other foreign markets.

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The month featured major theatrical releases including Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage, MGM’s latest James Bond actioner No Time To Die, Universal Pictures’ Halloween Kills, MGM’s The Addams Family 2, and Warner Bros. Pictures’ Dune, among others

Plano, Tex.-based Cinemark, which operates 323 domestic locations, said the October results were due to studios releasing tentpole titles sidelined by the pandemic.

“Congratulations to our studio partners for creating must-see big-screen content with something for everyone,” CEO Mark Zoradi said in a statement.

Imax CEO Richard Gelfond said Dune and No Time to Die together accounted for 20% of the exhibitor’s $100 million in global ticket sales.

“It is clear the global film industry has reached a turning point,” Gelfond said on the exhibitor’s fiscal call. “The movies are back. Imax is delivering global box office grosses in line with or above pre-pandemic highs as consumers return to theatres around the world.”

This month (November) features major studio releases include Eternals (Disney/Marvel), Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Sony Pictures), Encanto and West Side Story (both Disney), Spider-Man: No Way Home (Sony Pictures), Matrix Resurrections (Warner Bros. Pictures) and Sing 2 (Universal).

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.”

Analysis: Can ‘F9’ Jumpstart the Summer Blockbuster?

NEWS ANALYSIS — Universal Pictures June 25 finally releases the much-delayed F9: The Fast Saga on more than 4,000 move theater screens nationwide.

The ninth installment in the fast-car action franchise was, along with Disney’s Black Widow, Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II and the 25th James Bond movie, No Time to Die, perhaps the highest-profile Hollywood movie casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Vin Diesel-led F9 was originally slated for release over the 2020 Memorial Day weekend. The movie, which reportedly generated $7.1 million in Thursday night preview shows, has already sold about $300 million ticket sales at the foreign box office. That’s due in large part to the franchise’s global popularity, especially in China, which helped send the previous nine movies’ total global gross past $6 billion ($1.69 billion in the U.S.).

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To say domestic ticket sales expectations for F9 are big is an understatement. With moviegoers sluggishly returning to the cineplex, optimistic opening weekend industry projections range from $60 million to $80 million — significantly higher than current pandemic champ Quiet Place 2 with $48 million.

“There’s certainly a pent-up demand for movies meant to be seen on the big screen right now, especially after going an entire summer without such content last year,” Shawn Robbins with Box Office Pro wrote in a post.

With the U.S. leading the world in vaccination rates, and 70% of people having had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in several states, optimism is high theaters offering full-seating capacity (with a mask) will see record numbers — as has been the case in China for select titles.

“A few weeks ago in Los Angeles, movie theater owners, 13 movie studios, and talented filmmakers got together to tell you ‘The Big Screen in Back'” John Fithian, CEO of trade group National Association of TheatreOwners, said in a statement. “With pandemic cases falling, vaccinations rising, movie theaters in all major markets opening to 100% capacity, and big, crowd-pleasing titles being released all summer long, we’re keeping our word — with the kick-off of Cinema Week [through June 27], The Big Screen is Back.”

Fandango in a June 24 news release said advance ticket sales for F9 are outpacing those for A Quiet Place Part II, Fandango’s biggest ticket-seller of the year so far. Fandango also surveyed more than 2,000 moviegoers planning to see F9 on the big screen and found that:

  • 98% can’t wait to see the outrageous stunts and action on the big screen.
  • 88% are fans of the diverse, inclusive cast of F9.
  • 83% are Vin Diesel fans.
  • 72% are excited to see the return of Han (Sung Kang).
  • 69% are excited to see the return of Mia (Jordana Brewster).


“It’s the action-packed summer blockbuster fans have been waiting for,” said Fandango managing editor Erik Davis. “Breathtaking, adrenaline-fueled set-pieces complement a fun, inclusive ensemble cast. Longtime fans will love all the references to the previous movies in ‘The Fast Saga,’ and newcomers will be blown away by the scope and spectacle. It’s the kind of movie you’ll want to see on the biggest screen possible.”

Prior to the pandemic beginning in March 2020, Sony Pictures debuted Bad Boys for Life to an opening domestic box office of $62.5 million — an impressive tally for a franchise with less consumer pull than “Fast & Furious.”

“Any movie that opens with more than $40 million, that’s a good number [these days],” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, told CNBC.

Warner/Legendary’s ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Smashes Pandemic Box Office With $48.5 Million 5-Day Haul

The domestic box office renaissance got a big boost from two cultural monsters as Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Entertainment’s Godzilla vs. Kong destroyed the underwhelming theatrical weekend norm, generating an estimated $32.2 million over three three days through April 4, and $48.5 million over five days across 3,000 screens operating at 25% capacity. The tally easily surpassed previous Warner pandemic frontrunners Tenet ($20.2 million), Wonder Woman 1984 ($16.7 million) and Tom & Jerry ($14 million).

The tally is equally impressive considering all four movies were available for free simultaneously to subscribers on HBO Max.

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Godzilla vs. Kong, which has totaled more than $285.4 million worldwide since its international release March 25, performed just below the franchise’s previous release, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which generated $47.7 million in the first 72 hours of release across more than 4,000 screens in pre-pandemic 2019. Tenet continues to lead the pandemic-era box office with more than $363 million in global ticket sales.

“The global reception to the theatrical release of this film is a positive sign for moviegoing as people continue to look toward entertainment in a post-pandemic world,” Mary Parent, vice chairman of global production, at Legendary, said in a statement.

Other top-performing titles included Screen Gems’ The Unholy with $3.2 million across 1,850 screens; the previous week’s chart topper, Nobody (Universal Pictures), with $3 million ($11.8 million total); Disney/Pixar’s Raya and the Last Dragon with $2 million ($32.2 million); Tom & Jerry (Warner) with $1.4 million ($39.5 million); newcomer The Girl Who Believes in Miracles (Atlas Distribution) with $580,000; The Courier (Roadside) with $452,000 ($4.2 million); Lionsgate’s Chaos Walking with $380,000 ($12.2 million); Universal’s The Croods: A New Age with $210,000 ($56.3 million); and Sony Pictures Classic’s French Exit with $190,000.