When the sun sets on the 2020 film’s box office, it will be difficult to view the numbers as anything but dire.
After five consecutive years of North American revenues exceeding $ 11 billion, this year they are expected to peak at an almost 40-year low of around $ 2.3 billion.
That will be an 80% drop from last year, according to data company Comscore. Globally, where markets have been able to recover more fully, ticket sales will likely end up between $ 11 billion and $ 12 billion. Last year, that total reached $ 42.5 billion. But of course 2020 is a year with a big asterisk.
“It’s a year like no other,” said Jim Orr, president of national theatrical distribution for Universal Pictures. “We’ve never seen this small business in this industry.”
Outside of January and February, it’s impossible to judge the year’s box office by pre-pandemic standards. The box office, on the whole, is pretty predictable in a normal year. But when theaters closed on March 20, “it all went out the window,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “Unpredictability has become the constant.”
Most North American theaters have not been open for six months throughout the summer season, which typically accounts for about 40 percent of the year’s profits.
Over the past two years, the summer film season has grossed over $ 4.3 billion. This year, it grossed $ 176.5 million, much of it from drive-ins.
“The drive-in has become the hero of the summer,” said Dergarabedian.
When the indoor theaters started reopening in late August and early September, it was on limited capacity and with limited product.
Currently, around 35% of theaters are open in the United States, and some of the largest markets, including New York and Los Angeles, remain closed.
While there has been a constant stream of new releases, successful tentpoles have been rare. Some have switched to streaming services, others have gone high-end digital rentals, but most have simply pulled out in 2021 and beyond.
There is perhaps no more telling fact than the fact that 2020 was the first time in over 10 years without a Marvel movie.
Walt Disney Co’s Superhero Factory has been at the top of the year-end charts with Avengers: Endgame and Black Panther for two years, and has consistently had two or more movies in the top 10.
Unsurprisingly, the top 10 of 2020 is a bit chaotic and mostly includes films from the first two months of the year. Sony’s Will Smith sequel, Bad Boys for Life, has remained at # 1 in North America since its January release with $ 206.3 million.
Globally, it ranks second after Chinese film The Eight Hundred – the first time the world’s best film has been born outside of Hollywood.
The only post-shutdown movies to break into the Top 10 are Christopher Nolan’s Tenet in eighth place with $ 57.2 million and the animated family sequel The Croods: A New Age, which released on Thanksgiving and won 30.8. million dollars so far to place him 10th. place.
At least 15 top 100 movies were retro releases, including Hocus Pocus, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
“The good thing about movie theaters is that even though people had endless options at home, people were still looking for the movies,” Dergarabedian said. “People want to get out of their homes and have fun. This desire did not change, but the ability to do so was severely limited.
It even changed the way that opening weekends, once a reliable indicator of a film’s long-term prospects, are judged and it could stay that way for a while.
“The instant gratification we could offer on Sunday morning after opening on a Friday?” It probably won’t happen again for a while, ”Orr said.
Theaters adopted improved security protocols and experimented with different ways to get people back to their seats, including renting private rooms, but attendance throughout the fall and winter remained limited.
“People go to the movies to escape. If you go to a movie theater where you have to wear a mask and you have to sit out of the way and you have to be hyperconscious of your surroundings, that’s not how the theatrical experience is supposed to work, ”said John Sloss, director at media consultancy Cinetic. “Judging this year in terms of theater attendance, I think that overall does a disservice to what’s really going on.
Moviegoing in 2020 is the story of an industry that employs some 150,000 people who struggle to stay afloat until normalcy is restored, something everyone expects to happen even if it doesn’t. is not in the near future. Small theater owners will benefit from a lifeline through the Pandemic Relief Program.
But the effects on business have been staggering and it may be some time before the full impact is known, although there have been historical developments and trade-offs.
Some innovations have been well received, such as Universal’s historic agreement with various exhibitors to shorten the theatrical window from 90 days to 17 days in some cases.
Others, like Warner Bros’ decision to release all of its 2021 films on HBO Max and in theaters simultaneously, have not.
It’s no secret that streaming services, whether subscription or on-demand, have filled a huge void for moviegoers looking for new content. While home options will continue to compete with theaters for consumers’ eyes and dollars, few believe they are a death knell for theaters. Overall, studios are not looking to ditch the theatrical model, although some priorities have shifted to streaming.
“I think there’s a bright light at the end of the tunnel,” Orr said. “As the vaccinations continue to roll out, I have 100% confidence that people will run back to theaters when possible in their area. The model does not go away.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek noted on the company’s recent Investor Day that they made $ 13 billion at the box office in 2019.
“It’s not something to sneeze at,” Chapek said.
This past weekend, Wonder Woman 1984, which was available to stream on HBO Max for free, also raised $ 16.7 million in 2,100 North American theaters.
This number would have been a disaster before. For the pandemic? It’s a record.