Plot twist: Hollywood movies aren’t dead.
According to a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, global box office revenue is poised for a dramatic comeback, returning to pre-pandemic levels by 2023 and exceeding them in 2024.
Movie ticket sales took an unprecedented hit when COVID-19 first struck, fueling speculation that the sector could be permanently damaged as theaters shuttered, studios moved to accelerate their streaming options, and consumers grew accustomed to watching newly released blockbusters in their living rooms. Last year, global cinema revenues fell to below $12 billion, compared to more than $40 billion the year before, PwC reports.
But they’re bouncing back this year and could hit close to $42 billion in 2024 as studios line up more and more franchise-friendly tentpoles, crossing their fingers and hoping that vaccines keep COVID-19 and its variants at bay.
The revenue projections were included as part of PwC’s “Global Entertainment & Media Outlook” report for 2021-2025, which was released on Monday. The authors note that the United States and China will continue to battle for box-office dominance through the first half of the decade, hitting $11.3 billion and $11 billion respectively in 2025.
This weekend, Disney-owned Marvel enjoyed the biggest pandemic-era hit yet with the release of Black Widow, which took in $158.8 million in global ticket sales. That’s all the more impressive when you consider that Disney Plus subscribers could watch the movie at home just by paying an additional $30. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Disney Plus screenings generated another $60 million for Black Widow, making up about 27% of its total haul so far.
Disney isn’t the only studio that has experimented with hybrid distribution models during the pandemic. Most notably, WarnerMedia announced in December that it would release all of its 2021 blockbusters on HBO Max and in movie theaters simultaneously, a move that sent shivers down the spine of many in Hollywood who feared it could be the death knell for cinema as we know it.
However, some analysts believe that theatrical moviegoing will always have its place in the entertainment landscape, particularly when it comes to big-budget, effects-laden blockbusters. “[W]e shouldn’t be too quick to write off the commercial viability of the expensive, large-scale, spectacular films that benefit most from the communal, big-screen experience,” the PwC report says.