It’s-a springtime at the cinema with box office recovery jumping to a new level! In April the theatrical box office generated $2.9 billion worldwide. That makes it the 5th month in a row above $2 billion globally, which is the longest streak since the start of 2020. It’s also the 4th highest grossing month since February 2020 and the one with the 3rd lowest gap (-14%) against the average of the last three pre-pandemic years (2017-2019) in the same time frame.
A key element to the recovery in recent months – despite variances – is the global nature of growth. In April all of the 30 territories tracked in Gower Street’s global State Of The Market report had at least a double digit increase on the same period last year. That also applies for the 2023 total at the end of April, with the exception of just three territories that are still recording high single-digit surges.
After the first four months of the year the total global box office is estimated to have reached $10.9 billion. This is currently tracking +36% ahead of 2022 and more than doubles 2021 (+119%) at the same stage! It remains -21% (or $2.8 billion) behind the pre-pandemic three-year average, but has narrowed a bit from -23% a month ago.
On this month’s Global Box Office Tracker (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.
Fundamental to the April result was Universal’s release of the Illumination/Nintendo film THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE. The animated release delivered an astonishing $1.02 billion in April – single-handedly representing over 35% of the entire month’s global haul. It’s already the 4th highest grossing global release since the beginning of 2020. Moreover, it’s the first of the five titles that have crossed $1 billion in that period which is not a sequel. MARIO has also surpassed last year’s Illumination blockbuster MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU, which grossed $950 million worldwide at the end of its run. It is now the biggest global animated release since FROZEN II in 2019 ($1.45bn).
Although being by far the highest grossing title of the month SUPER MARIO was supported by multiple other movies that shipped in significant box office to the monthly total. JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 added approximately $200 million for a $402 million cume at the end of April. It’s now clearly the highest grossing entry in the franchise grossing more than four times the original JOHN WICK (+367%, $86m), more than double JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 (+131%, $174m) and well above CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM (+23%, $328m).
The action franchise was followed by the comedy adventure DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEVES. It delivered approximately $167 million within April for a cume of $194 million at the end of the month.
April also had two major horror titles releasing. EVIL DEAD RISE from Warner Bros, contributing $87m in the month, and Sony Pictures THE POPE’S EXORCIST, which generated $61m in the period.
Ben Affleck’s true story sports drama AIR was another welcome success with $79m global box office in April. It marks the encouraging first theatrical wide release of streamer Amazon since LATE NIGHT ($22m) in 2019.
More than half (60%) of AIR’s global number was earned in the Domestic market with $48 million. It was one of five titles that grossed over $40 million in April in the domestic market. That is just the third month in the past 12 with that many titles crossing $40 million. At the top of that group, SUPER MARIO grossed $491 million! It is only the third time since April 2019 that a movie grossed more than $400 million in a single month. The combination of both helped to achieve a $921 million total in April, the 4th highest grossing Domestic month since December 2019. Taking seasonality into account the month itself had the lowest percentage gap (-5%) against the three-year average since the beginning of the pandemic!
The terrific April performance gave the Domestic market a major boost. The running year now stands at $2.7 billion at the end of April, which is -28% below the three-year average. That has significantly narrowed from -36% at the end of the prior month. The cume is also +37% higher than at the same point last year. After just four months it also surpassed the 2020 dismal pandemic-peak full year total of $2.2 billion!
Just like North America, the Latin American sub-region had a fabulous April, recording the highest grossing month of the decade so far! It performed +6% above the pre-pandemic three-year average, the second-best percentage gain. The main driver was Mexico, which generated almost 40% of the region’s box office in April. The top two titles highlighted the market’s strength with family and horror movies. As around the world SUPER MARIO dominated the box office here as well, but a 65% market share was especially high and catapulted the market to be the #1 international market for the title at the end of April with $75 million. The #2 title in Mexico that month overperformed globally even more. THE POPE’S EXORCIST earned $8.2 million, that is nearly three times as much (+173%) as the next international market, Spain, generated ($3m) and just short of half (46%) of the Domestic result for the title ($18m).
Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) also reached great results in April. It was the third highest grossing month since February 2020 and just -9% behind the three-year average. Multiple major markets performed above the pre-pandemic three-year average. France (+3%), the Netherlands (+17%), Germany (+22%) and Austria (+37%) all had their best month, based on this metric. Although still below pre-pandemic numbers, even Italy (-16%) and Spain (-18%) achieved their second lowest monthly deficit against the three-year average.
Comparably, Asia Pacific (excluding China) had a mediocre month, being just the 7th highest grossing month of the past 12 and only #9 with its -24% gap against the three-year average. Only Japan managed a single digit variance to the pre-pandemic benchmark (-5%).
Japanese titles further continued to flourish outside their country of origin and took over the top two spots of the Chinese box office in April. THE FIRST SLAM DUNK gained #1 with $76 million in China ahead of holdover SUZUME, which added $51 million to its current total of $114 million. Multiple local May holiday releases fill the following ranks in the Chinese top 10 with BORN TO FLY ($40m, #3), GODSPEED ($31m, #5), RIDE ON ($30m, #6) and ALL THE YEARS ($19m, #9).
US titles continued to struggle in China, with even SUPER MARIO earning only a low $21 million in the month to rank #7. Other US titles released in the period are further behind, including DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEVES ($10m), 65 (965k) and LYLE LYLE CROCODILE ($839k). The 25th anniversary re-release of TITANIC, with $8.6 million, can almost be seen as a success in that context.
The Chinese market collected a solid box office of $415 million in April, the 5th highest in the past 12 months. Considering seasonality, the month itself even had the second lowest percentage gap against the three-year average in the same period. Nevertheless, at -35% it’s still significantly higher than in most other markets. This further eats up the strong Chinese New Year credit and expands the year-to-date gap against the three-year average to -13%, from -8% at the end of March. After four months in 2023 the Chinese box office cume is at $2.7 billion, neck-and-neck with the Domestic result at the top of the Global box office.
In April THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE added more colour to the theatrical box office in 2023, being the first major family and break-out title of the year and progressing the increased number and variety of the US studio offering. That path should continue in May. As well as franchise blockbusters GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: VOL. 3 and FAST X, the arrival of THE LITTLE MERMAID finally marks the overdue first female-skewing tentpole in a long time!