2019 films accounted for one-third of the 2020 box office take in a year of historic lows. Reports indicate that, by all accounts, the 2020 box office has dipped exponentially. In fact, Avengers: Endgame made more money during its entire run than the US box office made this year. This was to be expected, though. The pandemic forced most theaters to be shut down for months at a time, and studios spooked by their dimming prospects moved most of their tentpole films to 2021.
Those few that did stick around did not fare well. Tenet, once thought to be the reviver of the box office, fell flat at the US box office. Wonder Woman 1984, while netting the highest-grossing pandemic weekend yet, still pales in comparison to the original 2017 film’s box office take. Many studios opted to stream some of their biggest films. Disney moved Mulan and Soul to Disney+ with the former costing subscribers an extra $29.99 for a chance to watch the movie at home. With this year’s great box office experiment coming to a close, many are reflecting on a year that could’ve been.
While 2020’s box office take was always going to fall short of 2019, no one could’ve anticipated this kind of dip. According to Forbes, three of this year’s top 10 movies are holdovers from 2019. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker comes in at number five with just under $125 million. Best Picture contender 1917 rode a wave of good word-of-mouth to land at 2020’s number 2 spot with over $157 million. Similarly, Jumanji: The Next Level sits just ahead of Rise of Skywalker with over $124 million. All three of these films were released in the final weeks of 2019.
It’s not unusual for films released in December of any year to make a bigger impact the following year. Studios usually reserve the end of December for some of their biggest films – this year would’ve seen the release of Dune and Wonder Woman 1984 over the holiday. Those movies would’ve likely made the majority of money in the following weeks, making a dent at the 2021 box office. With December 2019’s release of Rise of Skywalker and Oscar heavyweight 1917, those films would’ve made a dent in the 2020 box office regardless.
Seeing as 2020 was no usual year, it comes as no surprise that these films took a spot in the top 10. Box office reports have been bleak – 2020 saw a $30 billion decrease from 2019. Even with films like Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984 hitting theaters, they simply wouldn’t have had the ability to make up the difference because of the lack of seats available at any given showing. Luckily, 2021 is already looking up. Marvel will release four films this year, and they typically account for a huge chunk of any given year’s box office grosses. On top of that, all of the films expected to do some damage in 2020 now occupy 2021 release dates, priming up 2021’s box office to come back in a big way.
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