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It's been more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic drove the first wave of business shutdowns around the world, and with rising vaccine access there's finally light at the end of the tunnel for a number of industries, including movie theaters. Last week, we saw promising signs for the future of the box office when Godzilla vs. Kong, a popcorn movie if ever there was one, posted the best domestic box office opening of the pandemic era, raking in nearly $50 million across a five-day Easter weekend release.
If that can happen in April, then surely it'll happen again on a grander scale later in the year, right? Box office experts say yes, but note it's also important to be patient.
Because of the constant public health threat of the pandemic, studios have spent the last year in a state of near-constant shuffle, moving some movies to streaming services while pushing others into new release date after new release date in the hope that, when the pandemic finally wanes, their film would be one o the first big blockbusters out of the gate. We all saw how that worked (or didn't) with Tenet, but now that Godzilla vs. Kong has seemingly broken the seal on getting a hesitant moviegoing public back into theaters, the future of the box office lets a good bit brighter.
That is, provided movies are willing to wait just a little while longer. In a new report over at Observer, box office projections generated by The Numbers show that films set to open this summer or later — Universal's F9 in June, Marvel's Black Widow in July, and United Artist's No Time to Die all the way in October — have seen a significant leap in their predicted earnings.
Black Widow alone is now projected for a domestic opening of more than $60 million on its way to a domestic total of nearly $200 million, which is perhaps a bit small for a Marvel film, but great for a Marvel film in a pandemic. That said, films set to open a bit sooner, like May's A Quiet Place Part II, are still projected to start a bit smaller, with a box office opening of a little less than $20 million.
Will all of this hold? It's important to remember that they're just projections, and as more people get vaccinated the excitement for going to the movies again will continue to build, but as Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock told Observer, patience is key on the 2021 release calendar.
“If the worldwide box office is going to return to pre-pandemic levels on a consistent basis, it will be later in the summer,” Bock said. “So, moving things forward is not the answer right now, despite the success of GVK. Remember, blockbuster films will need to bank on long term playability to churn a profit. Having more competition would ultimately defeat that purpose. This is a great, but still cloudy, sign of things to come.”
So, the second half of 2021 looks like a brighter, if very crowded, future at the box office.