Global box office this year overtook 2020’s COVID-stricken total of $12 billion at the end of August. It is now forecast to reach $20.2 billion in 2021, according to analysis firm Gower Street Analytics.
The good news is that would represent a 68% rebound compared with last year. The bad news is the total would still be 52% below the $42.3 billion record set in 2019 and less than half of the $41.9 billion average in the three pre-pandemic years (2017-19).
Gower Street uses a mixture of actual year-to-date data and box office predictions from individual territories. These are derived from its Forecast service and territories’ currently-known release calendars.
So far in 2021, aggregate box office from all international territories excluding China, totals $5.22 billion, overtaking the $5.13 billion recorded in China as of Sept, 11, 2021. North American (aka ‘Domestic’) box office stands at $2.31 billion to date.
Gower Street forecasts that by the end of the year the international total will reach $9.1 billion, comprising $4.3 billion from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, $3.85 billion from Asia Pacific (ex-China), and $900 million from Latin America. The company forecasts that China will finish the year at $6.6 billion and North America $4.5 billion.
If those forecasts hold good, China will be the world’s largest box office market for the second successive year and bigger than all European territories combined. The pandemic and other political conditions, however, have made the China box office market more insular and an increasingly difficult place for Hollywood to do business.
Gower Street said that the final four months of 2020 generated approximately $4.4 billion globally, despite significant portions of the global exhibition sector being closed. At the start of September 2020, 75% of movie theaters by market share were operating. This fell back to 56% by the end of the year as governments responded to second and third waves of the virus by reviving social distancing measures and mandatory cinema closures.
A year later, as of Sept. 11, 2021, just under 88% of global cinemas, as measured by pre-pandemic market share, are operating. That is equal to the pandemic-era peak last recorded on July 31, 2021.