Update: The Memorial Day weekend success, which delivered $97.6 million led by new openers A QUIET PLACE, PART II  ($57m) and CRUELLA ($26.5m), is set to fuel the Domestic market to hit Stage 3 of Gower Street’s Blueprint To Recovery for the first time in the current (May 28) play-week. This is one week ahead of our original estimate as laid out in the article (and on the graphic) below.

There are signs of life in the Domestic market. With the advent of a host of summer blockbusters, the Domestic market is forecast to cross the first weekly milestone on Gower Street’s Blueprint To Recovery within the next month.

Gower Street’s Blueprint To Recovery benchmarks the recovery of all major global territories against a 5-Stage plan. The first of these stages (“Open Day”) is the point at which 80% of theaters are open by market share. The second stage (“Base Day”) refers to the first day in which the box office is equal to the lowest grossing day of the two years prior to the pandemic (2018-2019).

The three most important stages to track are Stage 3-5, all based on box office play-weeks. Stage 3 (“Base Week”) is the first full play-week in which box office reaches the lowest weekly box office result from the two years prior to the pandemic. Stage 4 (“Material Week”) is the first full play-week to achieve a level of the weekly business equivalent to the median of the two years prior to the pandemic. Finally, Stage 5 (“Recovery Week”) is the first full play-week to achieve an equivalent performance to those in the top quartile of weekly business in the two years prior to the pandemic.

The graphic above shows Gower Street’s forecasted weekly box office and Comscore Movies data for weeks that have passed. The three horizontal lines illustrate the box office required to meet each of the stages explained above. The orange vertical bars signify a week in which at least one of the full play-week stages has been met and the shade of orange determines which stage. On the left-hand y-axis are displayed the % of cinemas open in the market, shown by the grey-shaded area.

The number of movie theaters open in the Domestic market has been gradually increasing over the last three months. At the end of February, the percentage of open movie theaters by market share was stagnant at around 43%. However, with the release of more new titles, and easing restrictions, the amount of sites reopening has grown. When GODZILLA VS KONG opened in April, that number had grown to 57%. As of May 22 the market share of open theaters across the Domestic market stood at 74% – the highest level it has reached in the pandemic era (2020 peaked at 61%).

However, there was bad news out of Canada this past week as key box office province Ontario announced a vaccine-based re-opening plan that looks set to delay any re-opening of indoor theaters until at least the end of July.

Despite the upward trend in movie theaters opening, the box office has been unstable over recent weeks. The Domestic market hit a pandemic-era high on GODZILLA VS KONG’s opening weekend ($57.2m), and again when DEMON SLAYER THE MOVIE: MUGEN TRAIN and MORTAL KOMBAT battled it out for the top spot ($71.4m). However, a sparce release calendar dampened the momentum needed to stage a recovery.

While the overall Domestic market is yet to surpass any of the weekly stage trackers, there have been successes on a state-by-state level. In the April 2 play-week Mississippi became the fourth US state to cross the Stage 3 target. This followed South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming which all achieved this milestone in December 2020. Three weeks later (in the April 23 play-week) Nevada became the second state to hit Stage 3 for the first time in 2021.

According to Gower Street’s latest forecasts, as of May 22, the Domestic market is expected to achieve the Stage 3 target for the first time in the June 4 play-week. That week sees CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT open alongside DreamWorks Animation’s SPIRIT UNTAMED, further building the slate a week on from the launch of A QUIET PLACE, PART II and CRUELLA. This build-up of new content will be enough to push the market over that initial threshold. The schedule of summer releases will maintain the box office above this level before an expected late August/September slump.

The Stage 4 threshold is anticipated to be surpassed for the November 19 play-week, as TOP GUN MAVERICK takes flight. Already in the market will be Marvel’s ETERNALS and GHOSTBUSTERS AFTERLIFE, which will be in weeks 3 and 2, respectively.

The fifth and final Stage on Gower Street’s Blueprint To Recovery is not expected to be met until the conclusive play-week of the year (December 24). A host of new openers – including SING 2, DOWNTON ABBEY 2 and THE KING’S MAN – as well as the usual Christmas bump will round off the Road To Recovery.

Gower Street’s weekly box office predictions are based on the current release schedule, as of May 22, provided by Comscore Movies.

This article was originally published in Screendollars’ newsletter #170 (May 31, 2021) and on the Screendollars website here.