In September, global cinemas accounted for $1.5 billion in box office. This is clearly down from $2 billion in August, the second best during the pandemic. Still a positive result taking the seasonality into account. September is historically the lowest performing month of the year. Benefitting from that this September recorded the lowest total monthly loss since January 2020 with $1.1 billion against the average of the last three pre-pandemic years (2017-2019).
According to Gower Street’s latest monthly Global Box Office Tracker, as of September 30, the global box office stood at $13.6 billion in 2021. This is tracking -$17.6 billion behind an average of 2017-2019, a drop of -56%. Nevertheless, it’s already 13% above the year-end result for 2020 ($12bn according to the MPAA’s Theme Report 2020).
On this month’s GBOT (above), 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.
For the fourth month in a row, the Domestic market outperformed China as the highest-grossing territory globally. Domestic contributed $0.4 billion in September, mainly driven by just one main title, Marvel release SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS with $200 million. First, on its 3rd of September release, it set a new Labor Day Weekend record. SHANG CHI’s three-day opening of $75.5 million and 4-day at $90 million, crushing the previous Labor Day record-holder 2007’s HALLOWEEN remake ($26.4m 3-day, $30.6m 4-day). Now it’s also the highest-grossing film domestically since December 2019, with a current total of $207million. This is ahead of the pre-pandemic released BAD BOYS FOR LIFE ($206m) and pandemic hit BLACK WINDOW $184m.
At the end of September Domestic had achieved a total of $2.5 billion for 2021, tracking -71% behind the three-year average, a total of -$6.1 billion. Despite domestic gaining traction in recent months, this is still less than half of China’s 2021 cume at the beginning of October with $5.4 billion.
However, China had their lowest-grossing month of the year so far with $0.3 billion. Despite September being usually a calm month, this is even less than last year’s September result (-14%), when the market just re-opened. In contrast to last years local blockbuster THE EIGHT HUNDRED ($440m total), which dominated that month, no release was able to break out this year. There were only two titles that crossed $50 million within the month. Local September release CLOUDY MOUNTAIN with $64 million (current total $65 million) and August holdover FREE GUY with $62m (current total $94 million).
China’s loss for 2021 is -$1.6 billion at the end of September, which is -23% down against the three-year average. While still being in a much better position than most markets this is far away from being over 20% ahead earlier this year. A disappointing summer ate up the record results of Chinese New Year week and February as a whole and the 5-day May Day holiday.
Consequently box office for the International market (excluding China) was able to move ahead of China over the September 10-12 weekend for the first time in 2021. By the end of the month, its cume is at $5.7bn up from $4.9 billion at the end of August. That makes September the 3rd best month since February last year for the International market (excluding China).
This positive performance was significantly lifted by two long-awaited studio releases, DUNE and SHANG-CHI. Both were responsible for a third of the monthly result. While still waiting for a release date in China, SHANG-CHI opened in most international territories and got impressive returns from all regions with $27million in the UK, $15 million in South Korea and $7.5 million from Mexico to name a few. DUNE concentrated its first wave of releases mainly in EMEA. The leading markets so far are Russia with $18 million, FRANCE with $17 million and Germany with $14 million in the box office.
The opening of DUNE helped EMEA to be the highest performing International Region for the third month in a row, causing 57% of September’s result (vs. 47% historically). Prior to that streak, APAC dominated the first half of the year. One main difference is the number of open cinemas. The majority of EMEA’s cinemas was closed until the middle of May. From that point, more and more territories were finally allowed to re-open their theatres. EMEA is now nearly fully operating for three months with currently 94% of cinemas open by market share. However, multiple restrictions are still in place.
Russia is one of the few EMEA markets that has never been closed in 2021. It reached another important step in the recovery process when the September results outperformed their three-year average for the first time by +10%! For the running year, Russia is -22% behind at the beginning of October, which is the lowest deficit of all Comscore-tracked markets. It’s currently the fourth biggest market in the world.
In APAC two major markets struggle with the pandemic more severely at the moment. Since August major parts of Australia and New Zealand are in lockdown. The situation is easing, but at the end of September, just 40% of cinemas by market share were open in Australia and 53% in NEW ZEALAND. This already caused a delay of major releases like DUNE, which is now planned to open on December 2 in both territories.
In another challenged APAC market, Malaysia, at least a third closure of cinemas came to an end September 9 after 3.5 months. At the end of September, 70% of cinemas by market share had already re-opened their doors. This helps to push the global market share of open movie theatres to a new pandemic-era high with 89% as of September 30. This is up from 85% a month ago and tops the previous high of 88% recorded at the end of July.
This is a healthy framework for the promising month of October. Long-awaited and multiple delayed studio tentpoles finally arrive with NO TIME TO DIE, VENOM 2 and HALLOWEEN KILLS. DUNE sees its second wave of releases including the Domestic market, the UK and China (all Oct. 22). And the traditionally second biggest box office week of the year in China after Chinese New Year opens the month with the Golden Week holiday. So far everything looks on track to push the pendulum of recovery to new positive heights!
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