The returning dominance of Hollywood studio titles, after a largely abandoned 2020, painted a very different picture in terms of market box office #1s in 2021.
When Gower Street surveyed global markets at the close of 2020 we found that, across 86 markets looked at, 39 different movies claimed the #1 position in at least one market. This contrasted to less than a dozen across the same markets in 2019 – the last pre-pandemic year. Of these the most dominant title, landing #1 in 23 markets (26.7%), was pre-pandemic release BAD BOYS FOR LIFE. However, while it was #1 in the Domestic market the sequel was unable to land the top spot in any of the 12 major international markets. Local productions claimed the #1 spot in 33 markets (38%) of those surveyed in 2020.
In total, across the 76 markets surveyed so far for 2021, 15 different titles placed #1 in at least one market. However, two titles accounted for 79% of market #1s between them.
The Spider And The Spy
In 2021 there was one title clearly dominant, and it only released 17 days before the close of the year: SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME. The Sony/Marvel title claimed #1 in 43 out of 76 markets surveyed so far for 2021. The put the web-slinger at #1 in more than half (56.6%) of global markets. This is perhaps little surprise given that the film was the global #1 of the year, having grossed $1.63 billion to date and counting.
NO WAY HOME dominated across North America and Latin America – with only Disney’s ENCANTO upsetting a clean spider-sweep by holding on to the top spot in Colombia, where the film is set.
The Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region showed the most diversity of top title, but was still dominated by two titles. James Bond title NO TIME TO DIE was #1 in 17 of 42 EMEA markets tracked. This was equal to SPIDER-MAN’s #1s across the region. NO TIME TO DIE delivered the third highest gross of all-time in UK/Ireland (it was #1 in both the UK and the Republic of Ireland), and became the #5 film all-time in Netherlands.
It became only the 12th film ever, and the first Bond title, to sell more than 1 million tickets in Denmark, finishing third of all-time in terms of admissions (behind TITANIC and AVATAR) but #1 in terms of box office! In Finland it is the #2 film of all-time in box office, behind 2017 local hit THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER (TUNTEMATON SOTILAS), though drops to #6 in admissions terms. In Norway, Bond was also the #2 film of all-time in box office, again behind a local title: 2008’s MAX MANUS, but falls to #14 in admissions terms.
Bond also delivered the best performance of 2021 in markets including Germany, Poland, Sweden, Belgium, Austria, Portugal, Croatia, Iceland, Luxembourg, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
Locals And The Rest
EMEA also saw F9: THE FAST SAGA (aka FAST & FURIOUS 9) take #1 in three Eastern European markets. The ninth instalment in the Vin Diesel-led action franchise was the only other title in 2021 to claim #1 in more than a single market.
Three markets were dominated by non-US, non-local titles: Bosnia and Herzegovina was topped by TOMA from neighbouring Serbia; Saudi Arabia saw Egyptian comedy A STAND WORTHY OF MEN rank #1; while an Egyptian title, NOT ME (MESH ANA), also topped charts in Iraq.
Only two local productions landed #1 spots across EMEA: Russia’s THE LAST WARRIOR: ROOT OF EVIL and Armenia’s OUR YARD 25 YEARS LATER.
Overall, globally, local titles took #1 in just seven of the 76 markets surveyed (9.2%)* – a massive contrast to 2020 (*N.B. this includes NO TIME TO DIE in the UK and SPIDER-MAN in the US; discounting these it would be 6.6%). As well as Russia (where ROOT OF EVIL became the #4 highest grossing local title of all-time and #5 in admissions, behind its predecessor) the traditional Asia Pacific markets where local productions dominate (China, Japan, India) where among the handful of markets still showcasing local titles at #1.
China was headed by THE BATTLE AT LAKE CHANGJIN (the market’s all-time #1), which released for the October Golden Week holiday. Japan was topped by anime title EVANGELION 3.0+1.0 THRICE UPON A TIME. India was led by another late-year release PUSHPA: THE RISE, which released Dec. 17 (the day after SPIDER-MAN in India). NO WAY HOME has not been released in China and only opened in Japan in 2022 (Jan. 7).
Other than ENCANTO, the only other Hollywood titles claiming a #1 were GODZILLA VS KONG and SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS, although the latter only did so in Cook Islands – a box office sub-territory of New Zealand (SPIDER-MAN was #1 across New Zealand as a whole). GODZILLA VS KONG was #1 for the year in Thailand, although its gross has since been overtaken by SPIDER-MAN thanks to continued play into 2022.
All titles in this report are considered only for box office taken within the calendar year (Jan. 1-Dec. 31).