For the first time since the pandemic began, domestic box office revenues nearly topped $1 billion in June as a semblance of normalcy returned to the multiplex. Hollywood studios have released a small army of event titles that have found their audience, but executives remain worried about a gap in the schedule once the summer rush is over.
The last time combined ticket sales hit $1 billion in any given month was in December 2019, when revenue soared to $1.16 billion. Final numbers show June 2022 revenue was nearly $986 million, according to Comscore. This number received a last-minute boost thanks to Minions: The Rise of Gru, which raked in $10.8 million in Thursday afternoon previews on the last day of the month before opening to record highs over the July 4 weekend.
In total, June was up 141% from $409.2 million in June 2021, but down 11.6% from $1.114 billion in June 2019.
“It’s still a huge achievement. And figuratively, if the month falls within pennies of the $1 billion mark, that’s no less impressive,” said box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of Comscore. The Hollywood Reporter.
Still, June’s gloom lingers for some box office watchers.
“Publicly, there’s a lot of celebration about the box office recovery,” one-stop studio exec says THR. “Privately, there is a lot of concern about a lack of product to come.”
Adds another Hollywood executive: “We are still in pandemic recovery mode and have not returned to pre-pandemic revenue and attendance, but box office results this summer are significantly better than expected.”
The boom was led by Paramount and Skydance’s Top Pistol: Maverick, which turned into an unstoppable hit, grossing north of $1.11 billion worldwide since its Memorial Day release and still going strong a month later. The only other title to cross the $1 billion mark in the pandemic era was December 2021. Spider-Man: No Coming Home (it sits at nearly $1.9 billion). The Superior gun The sequel is important because it appealed to all audiences, not just superhero-obsessed fanboys.
Among the films fueling the rally, Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madnessreleased in early May, crossed the $950 million mark worldwide, while the June one Jurassic World Dominion surpassed $800 million worldwide over the July 4 holiday weekend.
Warner Bros.’ Elvis — Baz Luhrmann’s biopic Elvis Presley — also danced its way to a major win when it opened to a better-than-expected $51 million over the weekend of June 24-26, thanks to older moviegoers (almost than 30% of the opening weekend audience was over 55).
Families have been another contested demo during the pandemic, but that narrative changes dramatically with the debut of Illumination and Universal’s Minions: The Rise of Gruwhich opened to a record $129 (or more, once final counts are known) over the July 4 long weekend to secure one of the best starts ever for an animated film, pandemic or not. Minions 2 helped ease the arm bells that erupted last month when June hosted the summer pic Light year, from Pixar and Disney, opened to $51 million domestically. And while Light year has now crossed the $200 million mark worldwide, including $100 million domestically, it is still considered a major disappointment.
Minions: The Rise of Gru comes full circle by indicating that all audience segments are willing to consider returning to their pre-pandemic movie-going habits, provided there is a variety of offerings.
“I think things are looking up. The biggest issue for the box office is content. When there’s product depth, people seem to show up,” says Wall Street analyst Eric Handler of MKM Partners “We’re going to be in a typical summer deluge. Then there’s really not much to do for a while.”
While the July marquee contains many intriguing titles, including Thor: Love and Thunder (July 8), Nope (July 22) and DC League of Super Pets (July 29) — the release schedule then becomes a huge question mark for several months in terms of event pricing. A Potential August Breakout Is Sony’s High-speed trainwith Brad Pitt.
The next big superhero picture to arrive then will be Warner Bros. black adamwhich debuts Oct. 21 opposite the romantic comedy Julia Roberts-George Clooney A ticket to paradiseby Universal . A week earlier, Universal’s Halloween ends opens in theaters (that last picture has a lot of potential, but is still a genre title).
Analysts are counting on the Thanksgiving and Christmas box office to regain the momentum enjoyed in recent weeks.
In terms of year-end tentpoles, some of the hottest titles include Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Still (November 11), Disney’s Animated Thanksgiving Deal strange world (Nov. 23), 20th century Avatar: The Way of the Water (December 16), New Line’s Shazam! Fury of the gods and DreamWorks Animation Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (both open December 21) and Paramount’s Babylon the day of Christmas.
“Original movies and low-to-mid tier releases before November will likely mean a short ‘chill’ period before the movie picks up for the holidays and enters a fuller 2023 release schedule,” says Shawn Robbins, a desktop analyst box with Box office Pro.
Dergarabedian and Robbins are among many analysts who believe domestic revenue for 2022 could reach $7.5 billion to $8 billion, which would be around 70% of pre-pandemic levels. (In 2019, the North American box office recorded $11.4 billion in sales.)
Through July 4, 2022, domestic revenue reached about $3.9 billion, according to Comscore. That’s up nearly 250% from 2021, but down 32% from 2019. Summer revenue hit $1.96 billion through July 4, up nearly 200% compared to the same period in 2021 and down 15% compared to 2019.
According to Robbins: “It’s a remarkable turnaround from where we were one and two years ago. While I’m hesitant to say that all audiences have returned, the trendline is approaching the point where most are ready.