In the latest signs of global box office recovery, July recorded the biggest box office results at both the Domestic and International (excluding China) markets since February 2020.

A combination of global blockbusters (BLACK WIDOW, F9, SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY) and a continuing expansion of the market share of movie theaters operating helped secure a global box office of $1.88 billion in July 2021. This is the best global result since February this year, when a record-breaking Chinese box office month single-handedly matched the latest July global result and fuelled a $2.3 billion global number.

According to Gower Street’s latest Global Box Office Tracker (GBOT), as of July 31 the global box office had reached $10 billion in 2021. This tracks $14.8 billion (-60%) behind an average of the three pre-pandemic years (2017-2019). However, it is tracking 53% (nearly $3.5bn) ahead of 2020 box office at the same stage.

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.

July brought another weak month in China, with the #1 global market adding just $420 million to its annual coffers – less than half its normal July levels ($0.9bn, based on an average of the three pre-pandemic years 2017-2019). The market lacked Hollywood releases (the last studio title to release was PETER RABBIT 2 in mid-June) as the month was reserved for local titles in celebration of the 100th anniversary of founding of the Communist Party of China. However, the title most directly timed for the celebration, propaganda title 1921 which officially opened July 1 and told the story of the party’s founding, did not prove popular with audiences and grossed a disappointing $75.7 million (with nearly a third of that coming from June previews). The month was only saved thanks to local pandemic-themed title CHINESE DOCTORS, which grossed $191.3 million.

This meant that for the second consecutive month the Domestic market outperformed China. A $500 million+ month may still be a far cry from the $1.2 billion 3-year average for the Domestic market in July pre-pandemic, but it continues to mark progress. The result was the best single-month box office since February 2020, before the coronavirus outbreak impacted box office outside of China.

Likewise the international market (excluding China) recorded its best result since February 2020, with just shy of $1 billion ($960 million).

The chief architect of this success was, of course, Disney’s release of MCU prequel BLACK WIDOW. The film had grossed $343.6 million by August 1 globally, split $167.1 million Domestic and $176.5 million International. The continued success of F9 (aka FAST & FURIOUS 9) contributed nearly $200 million to July’s global total, while SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY brought in nearly $120 million.

The month also witnessed all box office regions operating with over 80% market share of movie theaters open for the first time. At the end of June 82% of global movie theaters by market share were operating with the Domestic market and Latin American region yet to hit 80%. The Domestic market finally got there for the July 9 weekend (when BLACK WIDOW opened) and Latin America followed the next weekend. By the close of the month 88% of global theaters (by market share) were operating.

There were individual international market successes. France’s annual Fete du Cinema ticket promotion (which offered all tickets at €4 [$4.75] for a 5-day period) ran June 30-July 4 and delivered massive admissions, driving France to achieve Stage 4 on Gower Street’s Blueprint To Recovery for the first time. France’s Stage 4 measures a week of ticket sales equivalent to the median week of the two pre-pandemic years (2018-2019). France was only the second European market (and the first Western European market) after Russia to achieve its Stage 4 target. However, it would be followed later in July by both Austria (July 16 play-week) and The Netherlands (July 22 play-week). Meanwhile Japan, which first achieved both Stages 4 and 5 (equivalent to a top quartile play-week of 2018-2019) in October 2020, returned to Stage 4 levels during its July 17 play-week – the first time the Asian major had regained that level within 2021. Stage 3 levels (equivalent to the lowest grossing week of 2018-2019) were achieved for the first time in Turkey and Chile.

Re-openings occurred in Germany and Turkey (July 1), Peru (July 12), Taiwan (July 13), Chile (July 15) and South Africa (July 26).

The most impressive achievement at the international box office, however, came in Russia. The Eastern European major saw its 2021 box office total surpass its 2020 year-end total during July (on July 17). Only China (doing so back in April) has managed the same feat.

Within the Domestic market the July 16 play-week saw the all-important Canadian province of Ontario back in play, achieving its own Stage 3 goal for the first time. The same week Quebec and Prince Edward Island went a step further to hit Stage 4. The previous (July 9) play-week had witnessed Montana achieve its Stage 3 target – the last US state to reach that base level.

The success of July titles also boosted multiple US states’ annual box office to begin tracking ahead of 2021 for the first time. Utah was the first to do so, with 2021 tracking ahead of 2020 by the July 9 weekend. It was closely followed by Nevada. By month’s close 17 states had surpassed their 2020 box office at the same stage of the year, with Utah recording business already 24% ahead of the same point in 2020. The Domestic market as a whole was tracking 12% behind 2020 at the end of July.

This article was originally published on Screendollars’ newsletter #180 (August 9, 2021) and on the Screendollars website here.