The 4th Quarter of 2021 has started with a vengeance. After September’s disappointing close, October began with two blockbuster debuts: VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE (10/1) and NO TIME TO DIE (10/8). The key to success throughout the quarter will be the consistent weekly diet of commercial pictures with broad appeal.
This preview will list the major titles on the calendar for the quarter, including our best projection of the domestic gross for each title, rolling up to a consolidated projection for the 4th Quarter North American box office. We will then compare this year’s titles with major releases from the 4th Quarter of 2019 to measure progress on the road to recovery. Finally, will project the total year box office for 2021, and compare that with results from 2019. The big question: although Q4 is off to a great start, can it be sustained throughout the quarter?
All our projections are subject to change, of course, if studios make changes to the release dates for their pictures. This was a problem in the 3rd Quarter, as we highlighted in last week’s 3rd Quarter summary. All indications are that Distributors are feeling more confident in the box office potential for this quarter’s releases, and as a result, the likelihood of any major shifts is quite low. Still, given the turmoil of the last two years, anything can happen. With that caveat, here is our view of the rest of 2021.
On October 15th HALLOWEEN KILLS opened and the momentum continued. We are predicting a total run of $120M for HALLOWEEN KILLS. On October 22nd, we will see another eagerly anticipated opening with DUNE, the epic retelling of Frank Herbert’s 1965 Sci-Fi classic. DUNE is already generating an early awards buzz and we predict that it will also do well with general audiences, grossing $125M during the quarter.
After a traditional lull in moviegoing around Halloween, the business will surge in November, beginning with the 10/5 release of ETERNALS. Disney’s next Marvel movie should spark a gross of at least $170M. On 11/19, Sony will deliver GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE, the next chapter in the Ghostbusters franchise. Its pre-Thanksgiving opening should set it up for success, earning $130M from its theatrical run. Arriving on 11/24, Disney’s animation film ENCANTO will be a 4-week exclusive run in theatres leading up to Christmas when it will also become available on Disney+. ENCANTO should bring in approximately $90M at the box office.
For films releasing in December, we will give our estimate for the grosses each film will see during the last month of the year, to feed into our year-over-year comparison with 2019. We will also predict the overall grosses for those titles that include earnings in 2022.
WEST SIDE STORY will arrive on 12/10, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the classic 60’s Broadway musical. We have it doing $40M for its first three weeks in 2021, and $50M overall including its 2022 earnings. On 12/17, one of the most anticipated films of the quarter will open in theatres, SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME. It will compete with ETERNALS to take the prize as the highest-grossing movie released during Q4. We predict that SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME will take in $241M during its first two weeks, and $301M overall. The year concludes with the 12/24 releases of SING 2 ($119M for the quarter, $149M total), THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS ($98M for the quarter, $123M total), and THE KING’S MAN ($30M for the quarter, $48M total).
Here’s how our Top Ten pictures of the 4th Quarter 2021 stack up against the actual Top Ten from Q4 2019.
TOP 10 FILMS 2019 VS 2021 – 4th Quarter
Sources: Box Office Mojo (actuals) and Screendollars (Projections)
Based on these projections, we estimate that the 4th Quarter will generate a domestic box office of just over $2B. At this level, it would come in at 70% of the total earned during the 4th Quarter of 2019. The total annual box office for 2021 would add up to $4.6B, approximately 40% of the $11.5B generated during 2019. The second most difficult year in the history of the theatrical exhibition would close, mercifully, on an up note.
For the quarter to come in at 70% when compared with Q4 2019, and for the full year 2021 to end at 40% of the full year 2019, indicates just how far the exhibition has traveled on its road to recovery. Many fundamental questions will still remain, to see if exhibitors can somehow return to profitability while taking in a lower overall box office. In addition, they will need to find their way through ever-changing studio policies on theatrical exclusives and streaming. We will be back in early January to recap the 4th Quarter of 2021 and look ahead to the future of the industry in 2022.