Although not record-breaking, November was another month offering multiple positive signs of recovery. Global cinemas accounted for a box office of $1.8 billion, which is more than double the number reached in the same period a year ago ($0.8bn). Furthermore it’s the 4th best monthly result since March last year. However, it was significantly down from the record prior month, October, when the highest result since January 2020 was achieved with a monthly box office of $3.1 billion.
The breadth of the worldwide recovery continued. In November, 27 of the 30 territories tracked in our global State Of The Market report reached at least once the basic Stage 3 target, or higher, on Gower Street’s 5-Stage Blueprint To Recovery for a full play-week. Four countries even hit new targets for the first time. Turkey and Panama each finally achieved their Stage 4 markers. The UAE got above Stage 4 and Stage 5 in one go and Colombia went to Stage 5 in the closing play-week of the month. That pushes the number of markets that have achieved Stage 4 at least once during the pandemic to 19, i.e. now two third of the markets we track had at least one play-week at a median level of the weekly business seen across the past two pre-pandemic years. Eleven of these markets even hit Stage 5, the highest level, at least once – the equivalent performance to those in the top quartile of weekly business in the past two pre-pandemic years.
On a title level, in November two holdover releases reached records that illustrate the current recovered capability of the theatrical world. NO TIME TO DIE is now the highest grossing English-language title since STAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER in December 2019. The film’s global tally stands at $757 million, overtaking F9’s $726 million. In its home market, UK/Ireland, it flew even higher, already becoming the third highest-grossing film of all-time with $129 million! In China, the Golden Week hit THE BATTLE OF LAKE CHANGJIN topped that, becoming China’s all-time highest-grossing release. Its running total, an impressive $879 million, has now overtaken the 2017 local release WOLF WARRIOR II. With that result it’s also the global #1 release since the start of 2020!
On this month’s GBOT (above), the stacked bar graph on the left shows total box office levels split out by the three key global markets: Domestic, China and International (excluding China). The pie chart indicates the current deficit compared to the average of the past three (pre-pandemic) years (2017-2019) and where those losses are currently coming from. The bar graph on the bottom right displays the percentage drops globally.
According to Gower Street’s latest monthly Global Box Office Tracker, as of November 30, the global box office stood at $18.6 billion in 2021. This is tracking -$19.4 billion behind an average of 2017-2019, a drop of -51%. Nevertheless, it’s already 55% above the year-end result for 2020 ($12bn according to the MPAA’s Theme Report 2020).
The Domestic market did $530 million in November. This is the third best result since February 2020, just after last month’s peak and July this year. It was also holding better against the prior record month, dropping just -17% compared to China, which fell -75%, and the International market (excluding China), which came in -23% below. Nearly half of the November Domestic box office (46%) was achieved by the combined box office of two titles: ETERNALS with $152 million and GHOSTBUSTER: AFTERLIFE with $90 million. The following two biggest performers were family title CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG with $44 million and Thanksgiving release ENCANTO with $43 million. The first of those two was also available at no extra cost to subscribers of Paramount+ upon opening, again a promising statement for the demand of the theatrical experience given the potential cannibalization!
At the beginning of December, the Domestic market had achieved a total of $3.6 billion for 2021, tracking -65% behind the three-year average, a total of -$6.7 billion. This is still significantly lower than the cume of the currently biggest global theatrical market China at the same time – standing at $6.8 billion, being -18% below the three-year average, a total of -$1.5 billion.
However, in November China added just $290 million. For the fifth time in the last six months its monthly total was below the Domestic number. It’s the second worst single month result since cinemas re-opened in August 2020, just marginally above last November’s $287 million. It needs to be considered that November is, in the three-year average, the second weakest month after September in China. This year it’s the lowest.
Following an increase in Covid-19 cases at the end of October, limited shutdowns happened across over a dozen Chinese provinces and widened in November. These closures negatively impacted the month’s performance. The number of cinemas open by market share dropped from 92% in the middle of October down to 82% in the play-week of November 15. At the beginning of December, the situation has eased with 89% of cinemas open by market share again.
In November, China had just one major release that came close to $100 million with local comedy BE SOMEBODY, that did $99 million.
The global #1 release of the month, ETERNALS, hasn’t seen a release in China. Regarding box office this could have had a positive impact looking at HONG KONG as comparison. ETERNALS delivered the best opening since July 2019 in Hong Kong. Its current cume of $6.5 million is just slightly behind THOR: RAGNAROK. That helped Hong Kong reach the highest monthly result since January 2020. Moreover, Hong Kong outperformed its November three-year average by +20%! This was not just down to ETERNALS. The major local biopic ANITA brought the biggest opening of a local title during the pandemic and came close to the box office cume of ETERNALS with $5.9m.
Another highlight of the APAC region in November came from Australia. The major market had struggled with the pandemic more severely than others since August, when key parts of the country went into lockdown. At the end of October all states finally eased their restrictions. This gave the market the framework to achieve the second best monthly result since February 2020, just after April 2021. It was only -13% behind their November three-year average! The main driver was the Nov. 11 release of NO TIME TO DIE with a month-cume of $19.9 million. It contributed 40% of Australia’s November result. NO TIME TO DIE is already the highest grossing movie since JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL in December 2019. Additionally, the releases of ETERNALS and VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE lifted the month’s total.
Australia and Hong Kong helped the APAC region to reach a 2021 best being just -33% down against the three-year average in November. The EMEA region had a softer result, down -41%. This is the lowest number since all markets had re-opened in July.
The EMEA region was impacted by rising cases of Covid-19 in several countries. Russia started November with a short-term shutdown, which left only 31% of cinemas by market share operating. While this came up again to 88% by the end of November, the month generated the lowest box office of the year with $21 million, which is -68% below the three-year average. For the running year Russia is still just -26% behind – the second lowest deficit of all Comscore-tracked markets, after China.
As Russia is recovering three other – just recently strongly recovered – markets in central Europe are tightening their restrictions. Austria instituted a new full nationwide lockdown from Nov. 22 until at least Dec. 12. In the Netherlands renewed capacity restrictions and a 5pm curfew, preventing evening shows from Nov. 28, have come into force for at least three weeks. National restrictions, including some regional lockdowns, are also coming into play in Germany, with the possibility of further action.
Still the month ended globally on nearly the highest number of cinemas open by market share with 89.5%, just shy of the pandemic best 90% reached in the October 18 play-week. The global theatrical business has shown an impressive recovery over the last couple of months. On paper December has a sufficient number of very attractive tentpoles to end up as second best global performing month since the pandemic started. The movies are there, the audiences are willing to go. Fingers are crossed that covid cases rising in Europe and the newly-discovered Omicron variant popping up around the world won’t once again cross the plan.