The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on theaters, delaying the release of many major blockbusters. According to Comscore, the box office in the United States and Canada reached a revenue of $2.2 billion in 2020, a drastic decline from $11.4 billion in 2019. A similar situation took place in the United Kingdom, where box office revenue in 2020 totaled
GBP296 million, down from GBP1,251 million the previous year. The worst part is that we cannot be sure when the situation will return to normal.
With many countries implementing vaccination programs, there is definite hope that theatres will reopen once again in the near future, letting film buffs enjoy flicks on the big screen. “What … [is] great about 2021 is that our society [is inching] closer to stamping out the virus. That will inevitably bring stability to the film industry, which should rebound in a big way theatrically,” said Jeff Bock, senior analyst at entertainment research firm Exhibitor Relations “The difficult part is nailing down exactly when that will occur.”
While it is highly unlikely that the world will reach herd immunity in 2021, we are on the right track. Nevertheless, “that means wearing masks and staying out of confined spaces may end up lasting all year, which would likely force studios to pull a ‘Warner Bros’. That’s the worst-case scenario for the box office,” Bock continued. ‘Pulling a Warner Bros.’ refers to the strategy taken by the famous film company of releasing its movies on streaming platforms, a move that shocked many.
Unfortunately, the current situation may ultimately lead to theatre closures. “It depends on how long the big chains can keep creditors at bay. Rent will certainly be due,” Bock said. “Now, AMC (AMC), Regal and Cinemark (CNK) may end up throwing in the towel regardless.”
The shift from watching films in theatres to seeing them on streaming platforms has been huge in 2020. Early this year, Netflix announced that it would release a new film each week throughout 2021. Some of the more memorable of the platform’s offerings this year have included a sequel to To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, The Harder They Fall and Red Notice.
“Streaming will continue to be a factor no doubt,” said Paul Degarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “Many of the issues that impacted the theatrical marketplace in 2020 will carry over into 2021. But thankfully a vaccine is here and once it is more widely distributed, the fortunes of the business will rise. But it will take some time and require a lot of patience.”
“Hopefully, the virus will be eradicated, the film floodgates will open up over the holiday season and audiences will once again experience the power of blockbuster filmmaking on the big screen,” said Bock.