For the first time in more than 20 years, global box office revenue sank below $13 billion in 2020.
According to the research data analyzed and published by Finaria, the global box office industry suffered a loss of $31 billion during the year due to shelter-in-place orders. Compared to 2019’s haul of $42.5 billion, that translated to a decline of 71.5% YoY.
In North America, movie ticket sales during the year hit a 40-year low. Based on data published by Comscore, the figure in 2020 totaled about $2.28 billion. Compared to 2019, that was a decline of 80%. In fact, 2019 set a record for the second highest haul on record for box office, a total of $11.4 billion.
Based on the strong start that the industry had in 2020, it seemed set to break existing records. In January 2020, ticket sales surged 10% year-over-year (YoY) to $900 million. The success was largely attributed to movies like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Jumanji: The Next Level. These were December 2019 releases that were still showing in theatres.
February 2020 saw an increase of 4% YoY with sales hitting $651 million. However, as the box office industry went into mandatory hibernation in March 2020, things slowed down.
March 2020 ticket sales totaled $258 million, a 73% decline from $967 million in March 2019. The free fall continued, with the figure sinking to $2 million in April 2020 before a slight recovery to $17 million in May 2020.
For the rest of the year, US box office sales have not reached $100 million, with September 2020 being the closest, at $92 million.
China Becomes World’s Top Box Office Market with $2.7 Billion in Ticket Sales
Based on a report by Comscore, other major markets outside the US suffered a similar fate. The UK and Ireland were hard hit, as 2020 ticket sales plummeted by 76% YoY. South Korea sank by 71% as Italy and Spain both dropped by 72%.
Russia fell by 60%, Japan by 61%, New Zealand by 62%, Germany and France by 69% each and Australia by 65%. The 2020 total for North America is the lowest showing on record since the early 1980’s.
For the first time ever, China overtook North America as the world’s largest box office market. China’s ticket sales for the year were worth a total of $2.7 billion. However, this figure was still down by a whopping 70% from the 2019 total of $9 billion.
In yet another first, the World War II epic The Eight Hundred, a Chinese movie, took the lead globally, raking in close to $440 million.
On the worldwide box office chart where Hollywood blockbusters typically dominate, there were a number of other Chinese movies. Hollywood’s highest earner for 2020 was Bad Boys for Life. The Sony Pictures movie which opened in January 2020 grossed close to $413 million. Second on the list was 1917 by Sam Mendes which launched on January 10, 2020. It raked in about $385 million by the end of the year. Christopher Nolan’s Tenet came in third, generating an estimated $362 million. Tenet launched globally in summer and was the first Hollywood title to brave launching in cinemas despite the pandemic.
It is worth noting that the highest earner for 2019 brought in a neat $858 million according to Statista so 2020’s top movie only managed to gain 48% of 2019’s top movie.
Online Video Revenue Soared to $34 Billion in 2020
Due to the unique circumstances in 2020, studios got an opportunity to experiment with alternative models. A majority of Hollywood’s tentpoles in 2020 were sent to streamers, which appear to be Hollywood’s next big frontier.
In tandem with the astronomical decline in box office revenue, 2020 saw a massive boom in streaming. Omdia reported an increase of 30% YoY in online transactional and Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) revenue, which soared to $34 billion by the end of the year.
For Disney, major film releases like Soul and Hamilton were shifted to streaming service Disney+. Disney+ trialed the use of Premium Video on Demand (PVOD) in the launch of Mulan and other titles. In 2021, it expects to place 80% of its new films on Disney+ first.
Following the lackluster performance of Tenet in theatres, WarnerMedia will release movies in theaters as well as on HBO Max, the company’s streaming service.
Universal Studios made a deal with top theater chains to make upcoming releases available on PVOD 17 days after cinema release.
However, it is worth noting that in 2020, PVOD only accounted for $630 million in revenue for film studios.