The Domestic market will see 2021 box office overtake 2020, at the same stage, this week but recovery progress is regressing in some states.
As of August 14, the Domestic box office ($1.88bn) was tracking just 2% behind 2020 ($1.92bn) at the same point in the year. The steady flow of new mainstream openers into US theaters through July, as well as the re-opening of Canadian provinces Manitoba and the all-important Ontario, has meant the Domestic box office has been closing the gap on 2020.
At the beginning of July 2021, the Domestic market was still tracking 38% behind the same stage in 2020. No US states were ahead of their 2020 numbers, with only the small Canadian province of Northwest Territories already out-performing the previous year (by 33%).
By the end of the month much had changed. The market as a whole had closed the gap on 2020 to a deficit of -12%. Meanwhile, multiple states had caught up and overtaken their own 2020 box office results at the same stage. The first to do was Utah, early in the month, closely followed by Nevada. By July 31, 15 more states and two more provinces were tracking ahead of 2020 at the same point in time. These included: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming; as well as Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island.
Just a week further on (by August 7), Kansas, Montana, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin had also overtaken their comparable 2020 box office.
The graph (above) shows states and provinces (grouped by geographical area). It compares 2020 and 2021 box office by showing the 2020 box office on the Y-axis and how 2021 is performing in comparison on the X-axis. At the extremities are two Canadian provinces: Northwest Territories, tracking 83% ahead of 2020 to last weekend, and Yukon, which has yet to register box office in 2021.
This past weekend (with figures up to Saturday, Aug. 14) Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, and Minnesota all also caught up and overtook their 2020 levels, while Delaware, Indiana, and Ohio drew level. Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois and both North and South Carolina are all likely to do so next weekend. In Canada, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan both overtooken their 2020 box office, at the same stage in the year, this past weekend, with Quebec looking certain to join them next week.
But while this is progress in the right direction, there is still concern about how well different states are maintaining recovery.
July witnessed Quebec and Prince Edward Island become the first Domestic sub-markets (US states, Washington D.C. and Canadian provinces) to achieve Stage 4 of Gower Street’s Blueprint To Recovery. This is measured as a play-week equivalent to the median play-week of the two pre-pandemic years 2018-2019. Both provinces did so for the July 16 play-week. Meanwhile, Ontario achieved Stage 3 (equivalent to the lowest grossing play-week of 2018-2019) in the same week – it’s first with traditional theaters re-opening. Manitoba followed in the August 6 play-week – it’s fourth with traditional theaters re-open.
However, no US state has progressed to Stage 4 having achieved the Stage 3 target (something all states have done, with only Washington D.C. yet to do). What’s more only one state (Wisconsin) has consistently maintained business above a Stage 3 level since first doing so.
This means that all other states have seen business drop back below a level equivalent to the lowest week of 2018-2019 (a base level of recovery) for at least one week since hitting this key recovery stage. This is of more concern in some states than others. In Mississippi, the Stage 3 level was first achieved earlier than many states (for the April 2 play-week) and then dropped back for the next seven play-weeks before rebounding and holding above the Stage 3 level for the past 10 weeks (longer than Wisconsin has been above the Stage 3 level).
However, others are more troubling. Alaska has recorded business below its base level ($241k) in 7 of 10 play-weeks following the May 28 play-week that first took it to Stage 3. Colorado, which also hit Stage 3 for the May 28 week, fell behind its base level ($2.2m) in 6 of the 10 following weeks. Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia all witnessed business falling back below their base levels in the July 23, July 30 and August 6 play-weeks (Hawaii in July 16 as well), despite new openers including OLD, SNAKE EYES, JUNGLE CRUISE and THE SUICIDE SQUAD coming into the market.
The Domestic market, as a whole, has only repeated above a Stage 3 level in 5 of the 10 play-weeks since it first did so. The latest (Aug. 6 play-week) was the latest to record business falling below the $110.7 million requirement for the Domestic market to hit Stage 3. If the market, and individual states and provinces within it, cannot maintain at least this base level of business then recovery progression and consolidation remain in jeopardy.
More detail on each state or province’s recovery success is available in Gower Street’s weekly Domestic Road To Recovery report. This report tracks how the Domestic market, all 50 states, Washington D.C. and 12 Canadian provinces are progressing and maintaining their box office recovery.
This article was originally published on Screendollars’ newsletter #181 (August 16, 2021) and on the Screendollars website here.