Source: China State Council Information Office 3
2021’s box office in the United States hasn’t yet regained its 2019 pre-pandemic level, but it did experience a heartening uptick in ticket sales during the summer months, traditionally the country’s biggest box office season.
Clocking in at 1.75 billion U.S. dollars, the U.S. summer box office represents around 80 percent of the year-to-date total, and a whopping nearly 900 percent rebound over 2020’s dismal showing, according to studio figures collected by measurement firm Comscore.
Though still a far cry from 2019’s year-end total of over 11.3 billion dollars, the surge in cinema attendance nonetheless has industry analysts seeing light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel and opining that better days are on their way.
By contrast to the nearly 100 percent plummet in ticket sales from May 2019 to May 2020 due to COVID-19 shutdowns, Box Office Mojo, one of the country’s top industry tracking sites, reported that 2021 box office revenues took off like a rocket as audiences flocked back to theaters across the country, topping 2.2 billion dollars to date.
America’s biggest box office revenues are traditionally generated over the Fourth of July Independence Day holiday weekend, usually racking up between 150 million dollars and 200 million dollars in the box office. In 2019, the July 4 long weekend raked in 174 million dollars; in 2020, a measly 1 million dollars; in 2021, a healthy, almost 50 percent bounce, back up to 85 million dollars.
Top cinema artists are banking on audiences’ willingness to return to theaters to see their movies.
“Cinematic experience is still valued,” said Shawn Levy, Canadian director of the hit film, “Free Guy,” starring Ryan Reynolds in theaters now, reported CBC News. “It is returning with not only a healthy number, but with a ferocious yearning for collective experience again.”
Unlike many other big studio films released during the pandemic, Levy’s film will have a 45-day exclusive theatrical run before it streams on Disney+, giving theaters a chance to recover and audiences an opportunity to experience the film’s delights collectively with friends and other audience members.
Earlier this summer, “F9: The Fast Saga,” the latest in the Universal Pictures’ hit Fast & Furious film franchise, was the first studio blockbuster to be released exclusively in theaters since the pandemic began, earning a domestic take of 173 million dollars and 538 million dollars internationally and giving theaters the reviver they needed to get back in the game.
Adam Aron, CEO and president of AMC Entertainment, the largest U.S. movie theater chain, reported on a recent shareholder call that AMC theaters were reopening and approximately 22 million guests had already purchased tickets during the past quarter.
“We are still losing money,” Aron said on the call. “We are still burning cash. (But) we’re burning less of it.”
Other 2021’s top films in the U.S. theatrical box office included Marvel’s “Black Widow” (182 million dollars), Paramount’s “A Quiet Place Part II” (160 million dollars), Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” (108 million dollars) and Disney and 20th Century Studios’ “Free Guy” (97 million dollars), as well as Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon” (55 million dollars).
Marvel’s latest blockbuster “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” starring Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu, put a nice “end cap” to the summer box office with a huge 94.6 million four-day Labor Day opening weekend.
Many analysts anticipate a robust Q4 for U.S. box office due to the large number of studio tentpoles scheduled for release over the next few months, such as “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” “The Matrix Resurrections,” “Eternals,” James Bond movie “No Time to Die,” and best-selling sci-fi author Frank Herbert’s latest adaptation, “Dune.” But since many of them will debut on the same day in both cinemas and on streaming platforms, that may erode the projected theatrical box office rebound.
Industry insiders reckon that the pandemic will continue to have a negative impact on the U.S. box office as public health officials report that only over 53 percent of the U.S. population had been fully vaccinated amid the rampant spread of the Delta variant.
“It’s really safe compared to other forms of activities to begin with, and we’re working with local regulators to continue that,” said John Fithian, chief of the National Association of Theater Owners, reported Deadline.
“2021’s final months have more potential than any prior period to inch closer toward pre-pandemic levels of business,” said Boxoffice.com’s chief analyst, Shawn Robbins, reported CNBC.
“But everything hinges on the state of (COVID-19) variants and audience comfort levels, a higher share of vaccinated people, and of course, studios remaining committed to their existing release schedules,” he warned.