Hollywood box office revenue plunges 80pc as coronavirus devastates US cinema

Our Foreign Staff
·2-min read
An empty Hollywood Boulevard last month. Cinemas in LA have not been open since March - GC IMAGES
An empty Hollywood Boulevard last month. Cinemas in LA have not been open since March - GC IMAGES

Hollywood movies suffered an unprecedented 80 per cent slump in box office revenue in North America in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic closed cinemas and studios held back the release of scores of new films.

Research firm Comscore said in an end-of-year report on Tuesday that the North American box office brought in $2.2 billion (about £1.6 billion) in 2020, compared with $11.4 billion for 2019.

The 2020 revenue marked an almost 40-year low, according to historical data from Box Office Mojo. The lowest previous take for North American box office receipts was 1981, with a total of $918 million, in a year when Superman II was the biggest film.

Comscore did not release worldwide data for 2020, but Variety said global returns slumped some 71 per cent.

The pandemic forced cinemas to close around the world in mid-March, bringing some small and big chains like AMC Entertainment – and the UK's Cineworld – to the brink of bankruptcy. Cinemas have still to reopen in the biggest US markets of Los Angeles and New York City.

Read more: Has Hollywood reached The End?

Bad Boys For Life, which came out in January, was the highest-grossing film in the US last year - SONY
Bad Boys For Life, which came out in January, was the highest-grossing film in the US last year - SONY

Some 274 movies – including blockbusters like Bond film No Time to Die, Top Gun: Maverick and the ninth Fast and Furious action film – were moved to 2021 release dates, according to the Comscore report.

That left Sony Pictures cop caper Bad Boys for Life, released in January last year, as the top-earning movie in North America for 2020 with $206 million. In 2019, Avengers: Endgame ruled the domestic box office with $858 million.

Christopher Nolan's Tenet, which Warner Bros hoped would tempt punters back into cinemas in the summer, took just $58 million in the US and Canada.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Comscore, said that 2020 revenue – much of it from drive-in venues – was grounds for hope given that some industry observers had feared the figure would be even smaller.

"That should be extremely encouraging to anyone who was worried that movie-going would not come back at all," Mr Dergarabedian said.

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