Compared to 2020, the only way was up for the global box office in April 2021, but what a difference a year, and some major releases, make. According to Gower Street’s latest Global Box Office Tracker (GBOT), April delivered global theatrical takings of $1.1 billion – up on March’s $0.9 billion.
The stacked bar graph on the left shows total box office levels split out by the three key global markets: Domestic, China, and International (excluding China). The pie chart indicates the current deficit compared to the average of the past three (pre-pandemic) years (2017-2019) and where those losses are currently coming from. The bar graph on the bottom right displays the percentage drops globally.
With the COVID-19 pandemic shuttering over 99% of global movie theatres by the beginning of April 2020, there was no question that April 2021 would perform better. The month began and closed with 64% of global movie theatres (measured by market share) operating, although the make-up of those numbers was slightly altered.
The Domestic market started April with 57% of theatres by market share reporting business. This had risen to 62% by month-end. In contrast, the International market (excluding China, which held steady at 94%) dipped from 51% to 48% over the same period. Despite gains in both EMEA (22% rising to 24%) and Latin America (42% rising to 47%), international numbers were hit hard by the Asia Pacific (excluding China) dropping from 94% to 81%. This change came right at the end of the month as Japan announced a new state of emergency impacting venues in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hyogo prefectures.
As for the make-up of April’s grosses, it was the Domestic market that wins the “most improved” award. The North American box office generated approximately $216.5 million in April – only $25 million shy of the entire Q1 result in the market. Given its March 31 Domestic release date, it is little surprise that April’s box office monster was GODZILLA VS KONG, taking $77 million of its $90+ million to date in the month. This was backed up by the battling duo of MORTAL KOMBAT ($25.2m) and DEMON SLAYER: MUGEN TRAIN ($24.3m), which both opened on April 23.
The April 23 pairing led to the biggest box office weekend ($57m) and week ($60.5m) of the pandemic era, while also surpassing the shutdown week (March 13-19, 2020 – $54.5m/$58.9m). April also saw the second-best weekly result of the pandemic era, for the Easter week (April 2-8), led by the second session of GODZILLA VS KONG.
April witnessed two new states achieve their Stage 3 goals on Gower Street’s Blueprint To Recovery, measured as a play-week delivering the equivalent box office to the lowest-grossing week of the last two pre-pandemic years (2018-2019). This is a base level of business in assessing the road to recovery of a state, province, or international territory. Mississippi achieved its target (a box office week of over $443,000) in the April 2 play week. Nevada followed with the April 23 play week, achieving its target of over $1.2 million.
Only three other states had previously achieved this mark – South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming, all doing so during the Dec. 25 play week. Among Canadian provinces only Prince Edward Island and Northwest Territories have hit the target, both doing so for the first time in 2020.
The general success of the April 23 play week provided pandemic-era best play weeks in 36 states, including Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas (where it managed 93% of its $9.7m Stage 3 target), Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia, as well as in Washington D.C.
Outside North America, April saw three new territories progress to Stage 4 (a box office week equivalent to the median week of 2018-2019) with Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong all doing so for the April 1 play week. Both Australia and New Zealand have repeated the feat in subsequent weeks. Meanwhile, the same play week (starting April 2) saw Taiwan become only the fourth global market to achieve the final Stage 5 target (a box office week equivalent to a top quartile week of 2018-2019). Only China, Japan, and Russia had previously achieved Stage 5 levels – each doing so repeatedly. Singapore and Argentina have also previously achieved Stage 4.
China grossed just over $400 million in April. The primary driver was the family drama SISTER, which opened on April 2 and grossed $133.5 million by month’s end. This was backed up by my March holdover GODZILLA VS KONG ($97.2m within April) and Japanese anime DETECTIVE CONAN: THE SCARLET BULLET ($29.3m after opening April 17). It was a relatively quiet month in the global #1 market ahead of a host of local titled coming in for the May Day/Labor Day 5-day holiday (which, like Chinese New Year in February, proved a record-breaker). However, April did see China achieve another feat, its total box office for 2021 surpassed the year-end total of 2020!
The International market (excluding China) delivered the biggest portion of April grosses with approximately $555 million. Russia had another strong month, as the April 8 opening of MORTAL KOMBAT scored the highest opening since pre-pandemic local hit ICE 2 in February 2020. Two weeks later Guy Ritchie’s WRATH OF MAN delivered the third-best opening of the pandemic era (with GODZILLA VS KONG in-between).
The end of the month (April 26) also saw another European major, Italy, allow cinemas to reopen. This followed Portugal a week earlier.
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