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Global cinema box office is set for a strong recovery next year, analysis firm Gower Street Analytics predicts. But a return to pre-COVID levels of business will have to wait until 2023 at the earliest.

In a briefing note published Wednesday, the U.K.-based analysis firm forecasts that 2022 global box office will reach $33.2 billion. That would represent a huge 58% leap compared with its current estimate of $21 billion for 2021.

The running total for the current year stood at $19.2 billion, as of Dec. 11. The remaining weeks of 2021 will benefit from the release of “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which is already enjoying a strong critical reception, and other major titles.

Gower Street predicts that, as the world recovers from COVID, a more familiar box office hierarchy will be restored, with North America the single largest theatrical territory.

In 2020, as the film industry slumped under the weight of mandatory cinema closures, prolonged social distancing measures and a disrupted releasing schedule, but China’s theatrical business shrank less than other territories and it emerged as the biggest single film market. Gower Street and other analysts expect China to have retained that position this year when final 2021 figures are tallied.

Gower Street forecasts that next year North American theatrical will more than double from an estimated $4.4 billion in 2021 to a predicted $9.2 billion in 2022. China, it forecasts, will climb from an estimated $7.2 million in 2021 to $8.2 billion in 2022. The rest of the world (i.e. international territories, excluding North America and China), Gower Street forecasts will jump from an estimated aggregate of $9.4 billion in 2021 to $15.8 billion in 2022.

“If the projection holds it would suggest the industry will need to wait until at least 2023 to see a full return to pre-pandemic global box office levels of over $40 billion. Our 2022 forecast is still 20% behind the average of the three pre-pandemic years (2017-2019),” said Robert Mitchell, the firm’s director of theatrical insights.

The company, which tracks release schedules, says its modeling is based on the currently known film release calendar. The picture is subject to significant change as additional titles are added. And it assumes a largely open marketplace without additional COVID-related shut downs.

That assumption may also be subject to the rescheduling in individual territories, such as the U.K. where the arrival of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has already caused release delays.

In another proviso, it also warns about the opacity of the mainland China cinema market. “With a lesser known advance release calendar and with uncertainty following the lack of release for many recent major Hollywood titles, China is arguably the market that is hardest to predict,” the firm said.