Cinema box office this year in North America is poised to overtake theatrical revenues in China, the country that has been the world’s largest movie market for the past two years.
Before the latest weekend, gross revenues in the year to date stood at $2.38 billion for the North American compared with $2.43 billion for China, according to data from ComScore.
U.K.-based research firm Gower Street Analytics forecast that the North American figure would overtake China’s revenues over the weekend or early this week. That reflects business growth in North America and the current reversal in China, where anti-COVID measures are causing renewed cinema closures.
Gower Street says that some 85% of global cinemas are now open for business, compared with pre-pandemic levels.
The researcher compares recent box office performance with mean 2018-19 low-, median- and top quartile score weekends to create a five-step scale of recovery in each market.
On this scale, all except one major market had achieved Stage 5 at least once by the end of 2021. With “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” changing audience behavior, these included the domestic market, France, Spain, Italy, Australia, Mexico and Brazil.
Only South Korea, among the top 30 markets tracked by the company, had not achieved either Stages 4 or 5 by the end of 2021. (February, March and April 2022 were all weak in Korea, but the latest three weekends have improved strongly, with “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and local title “The Roundup” leading the charge.)
Sustaining a recovery is different from delivering a big weekend, the company notes.
Gower Street shows that in the first four and a half months (19 weeks) of 2022, the North American market had not reached stage five and only managed stage 4 once.
China had reached stage five on four weekends and stage four on another four weekends in the early part of 2022. But it is now falling away. In the last 11 weekends, the China market has gone from tracking 5% behind 2021 and 16% behind the pre-pandemic 3-year averages to now 37% behind 2021 and 35% behind the three-year average.
All markets are tracking ahead of 2021, with the exceptions of mainland China, Hong Kong ( down 44%, due to being closed most of 2022), Taiwan (down 20%), and Russia (down 27% and affected by the Hollywood studios’ boycott).
France, Germany and Austria are seeing the most sustained levels of business. Each has hit Gower Street’s stage 3 base box office level in every week of 2022 so far. Italy, Japan, and the U.K. are just behind.
Planetwide, through May 21, Gower Street calculates global box office to be $9.84 billion and tracking 40% below the average of the last three pre-pandemic years (2017-2019). That figure is, however, 60% ahead of the $3.55 billion total at this stage in 2021.