Continued 2023 Recovery Will Still Leave Global Cinema Box Office Far Adrift of Pre-Pandemic Levels

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The world’s cinema exhibition market may grow by 12% next year to reach $29 billion, according to a new forecast. But that follows a 2022 where recovery was slowed by multiple shocks. And it leaves the industry down by more than a quarter compared with the pre-pandemic era.

An early forecast from consultancy firm Gower Street Analytics points to the global cinema business finishing 2022 with $25.8 billion of gross box office revenues, compared with $21.3 billion in 2021.

The 2023 forecast is still 27% behind the average of the last three pre-pandemic years (2017-2019) at current exchange rates (or 30% down using historic rates). If the projection holds good, it would suggest that the industry will need to wait until at least 2024 to see a full return to pre-pandemic global box office levels.

The current year has been a difficult one, hit by external and self-inflicted problems. These include: a depressed Chinese box office, that is likely to end nearly $3 billion behind 2021; the Russian invasion of Ukraine and resulting U.S. studio boycott of Russia; an exchange rates rollercoaster that reduced the value of non-U.S. revenues by $1 billion, according to Gower Street.

The film releasing calendar has also been a factor. Well-documented gaps meant uneven supply of films to theaters. The rescheduling of certain major titles from 2022 into 2023 may have reduced ‘domestic’ i.e. North American box office revenues by as much as $1 billion.

According to the consultancy, North American market is projected to deliver a 12% increase in 2023 to reach $8.6 billion, compared with a forecast 2022 figure of $7.65 billion. That is 25% behind an average of the last three pre-pandemic years.

The Asia Pacific region (excluding China) and Latin America regions are both expected to gain 11-12% over 2022 and come in approximately 20% down on the pre-pandemic average.

The Europe, Middle East and Africa region is expected to increase approximately 7% on 2022 and finish 30% behind the pre-pandemic average. The biggest drag on that region is Russia.

China remains the hardest region to forecast. Its release calendar is the least visible. There is continued uncertainty around access for import titles. And changing COVID policy could also have a double-edged impact. Gower Street predicts $5.55 billion for China in 2023. That represents growth over the projected year end total of $4.4 billion for 2022, but is well short of its 2021 total of $7.3 billion and still further behind the 2017-19 period, which averaged $8.77 billion.