There are many factors that will mark 2020 out as a unique year at the global box office. Perhaps one of the most notable is the lack of a unifying global hit proving a dominant force at the box office.
The virtual absence of major Hollywood releases since March has resulted in an end-of-year map that looks very different from normal years. There have been opportunities for local titles to dominate in many more territories than just the usual suspects. The 2020 release landing at #1 in the most markets was a Q1 release. However, the top performer in more than a quarter (20) of 79 markets surveyed was actually a 2019 holdover!
Of course, there is no year where all markets would crown the same #1. Even global mega-hits AVATAR and AVENGERS: ENDGAME were not #1 in all markets. In 2019 for example THE LION KING was dominant in much of the EMEA region, scoring the #1 spot in major markets France, Italy, Russia and Spain, as well as in smaller markets including Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, and Sweden. Disney also had alternate #1’s to AVENGERS in Argentina (TOY STORY 4) and Venezuela (FROZEN II), while Greece ducked the Disney dominance completely with Warner’s JOKER coming out top. There were also a number of markets, typically dominated by local titles, like China, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey where local titles prevailed. However, across the 79 box office markets surveyed there were less than a dozen titles that occupied the #1 spots around the world in 2019.
In 2020, 38 different movies claimed a market #1 among the 79 surveyed markets!
On the interactive map (above) we have split the #1s into three main groups. Markets where the #1 film for 2020 was a pre-lockdown release are shown in orange. Those with a post-lockdown #1 are shown in green. The blue-shaded markets saw a 2019 holdover remain the biggest earner in 2020. Unshaded countries are those for which data is currently unavailable.
Additionally, if you hover over any market on this interactive map you will see the film title, as well as whether it is a local title. Data has been sourced via our partners at Comscore Movies and additional local contacts in some markets. For markets that encompass more than one country (e.g. North America, UK/Ireland) the market #1 is displayed across all component countries.
The #1 of #1s
The title landing the #1 position in the most markets was Sony’s BAD BOYS FOR LIFE. The highest grossing US release of the year globally, the January title grossed $426.5 million worldwide. That may not have been enough to score it the position of global #1 (as discussed last week, that honor went to China’s THE EIGHT HUNDRED), but the Will Smith-Martin Lawrence reteam came out top in 21 of the 79 markets surveyed. This would expand to 27 if only looking at 2020 releases.
The action film was #1 in the Domestic market ($206.3m) but was unable to land the top spot in any of the 12 major international territories. It did succeed in becoming the #1 2020 release in Germany (€16.7m), but was actually beaten in-year by 2019 holdover STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (€17.6m).
BAD BOYS was a strong performer across Eastern Europe, claiming #1s in territories including Armenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Hungary, Kyrgyzstan, Modolva, Slovenia and Uzbekistan. It was also the #1 2020 release in Kazakhstan, where it was pipped by 2019 local holdover BIZNES PO-KAZAKHSKI VS KOREE, and in Tajikistan.
It also claimed the 2020 all-releases #1 spot in other EMEA markets including Austria, Belgium, Egypt, Israel, UAE, South Africa and East Africa (which encompasses Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia).
It was the top performing 2020 release in West Africa (grossing 180m Nigerian Naira), but ultimately lost out to Nollywood smash-hit SUGAR RUSH. The action comedy, which opened Christmas Day 2019, delivered Naira 206 million ($530,200) of a Naira 288m total within 2020. SUGAR RUSH is the 4th highest grossing Nigerian film of all-time. The West African market encompasses Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia).
Other markets where the BAD BOYS sequel lost out to a 2019 holdover included Colombia, Panama and Tajikistan, which all saw another Sony title, JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL, dominating. JUMANJI was actually the title with the second highest number of #1 positions across the surveyed markets in 2020 at 11. However, only one (Paraguay) saw it actually release within 2020. Others, where the JUMANJI sequel remained the top 2020 grosser despite opening in 2019 included: Australia and New Zealand (where 1917 was the top 2020 release), Peru (local film THE FOQUITA: 10TH OF THE STREET was the top 2020 opener), Poland (SCOOB!); and Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua (all SONIC THE HEDGEHOG).
Pre-lockdown vs Post-lockdown
Of the markets surveyed 46 (59.5%) look to finish 2020 with a pre-lockdown release at #1. Outside of BAD BOYS other multi-market chart toppers in this bracket included SONIC THE HEDGEHOG, 1917, FROZEN II and THE GENTLEMEN.
SONIC played particularly well across Latin America. It is to date the #1 film of 2020 in four markets in the region, including Mexico, and the top 2020 release in another three. Two of the other markets in the region (Argentina and Bolivia) released FROZEN II in January, which claimed #1. Brazil also released FROZEN II in January. With a Brazilian result of Real 124.8 million ($30.6m) it was the top 2020 release but narrowly lost out on the #1 spot to local holdover MY MOM IS A CHARACTER 3, which released December 26, 2019 and delivered Real 143.7 million ($35m) of a Real 182.2 million total within 2020. FROZEN II also topped the 2020 charts in Finland despite being a 2019 holdover.
Guy Ritchie’s THE GENTLEMEN topped the charts in Ukraine and Croatia, while also proving the top 2020 release in Serbia & Montenegro – where it lost out on the year’s #1 spot to Russian holdover PEASANT (KHOLOP).
Sam Mendes multi-award-winning First World War drama, 1917, was by far the biggest release of the year in UK/Ireland, taking £44 million ($57.3m). No other film topped £20 million at the UK/Ireland box office in 2020. The film was also #1 in Netherlands and Portugal, while it additional delivered the top gross for a 2020 release in another three markets: Greece, where local holdover HAPPINESS (EFTIHIA) was the top earner; and, as mentioned above, Australia and New Zealand.
1917’s UK triumph marked just one of 11 markets where local productions releases pre-lockdown dominated the year. Italy’s New Year’s Day opener TOLO TOLO (€46m) easily dominated there, while other markets with local pre-lockdown leaders included South Korea, India, Estonia, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland, and Turkey. Meanwhile Argentina’s ROBBERY OF THE CENTURY was #1 in neighboring Uruguay; and Hong Kong action comedy ENTER THE FAT DRAGON, starring Donnie Yen, proved the biggest earner in Malaysia.
In contrast to the dominating pre-lockdown films, only 12 markets have seen a post-lockdown release take the #1 slot (although this weekend’s release of WONDER WOMAN 1984 may hope to add some more). Warner Bros’ TENET tops the chart in five markets: France, Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand. It was also the top earning 2020 release in Sweden (where holdover FROZEN II was the year’s #1).
Disney’s MULAN was not available to many key markets as a theatrical release due to the decision to release it as a Premium Access Disney+ title in markets where the platform has launched. However, the live action remake did finish 2020 as the #1 film in Singapore.
China’s THE EIGHT HUNDRED (the first ever non-US global #1) was a post-lockdown release, launching Aug. 21; while Japanese record-breaker DEMON SLAYER THE MOVIE: MUGEN TRAIN opened in mid-October.
Other local post-lockdown titles dominating their market included FATHER THERE IS ONLY ONE 2 (PADRE NO HAY MAS QUE UNO 2) in Spain; ANOTHER ROUND (DRUK) in Denmark; AMMA HOFI in Iceland; and ASPHALT BURNING (BORNING 3) in Norway. Meanwhile in West Africa, post-lockdown release FATE OF ALAKADA: THE PARTY PLANNER proved another Nollywood hit, coming in third for the year (behind SUGAR RUSH and BAD BOYS FOR LIFE) with Naira 111 million – only the 14th Nollywood film to top Naira 100 million.
Whether a holdover, a pre-lockdown release, or a post-lockdown release, across the 79 markets surveyed local titles came in at #1 in 23 markets – beneficiaries in many markets of the absence of Hollywood product. Local titles in Finland (LADIES OF STEEL) and Peru (THE FOQUITA) were the top releases in 2020, but missed out on #1 to 2019 holdovers.
This article was originally published in Screendollars’ newsletter #148 (December 21, 2020).