Barbie, Oppenheimer Helping Global Box Office Recovery



Strong summer season performances by movies across the world have sped up the movie industry’s global recovery.

And for the second time this year, analysis firm Gower Street Analytics has revised its forecast for the 2023 cinema year upwards.

The London-based firm is now forecasting that the full-year global gross box office will weigh in at $34.5 billion, a $2.5 billion increase on its April forecast. The upgrade reflects a strong July-August period globally, but with the majority of the increase due to the summer movie season boom in China.

If the new projection holds good, it would see global box office finish 33% ahead of 2022 (35% at current exchange rates). It would also come in just 12% behind the average of the last three pre-pandemic years, 2017-2019, the firm said.

The forecast is based on the currently known release calendar for the remaining four months of the year. This could change significantly if studios shift their films’ dates due to a long continuation of the Hollywood writers’ and actors guild strikes.

Currencies could be another risk factor. The Chinese Yuan or Renminbi has recently fallen to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar (in which box office is usually compared) for five years, reflecting the country’s current economic weakness. Either further weakness or a recovery of the Chinese currency could skew the forecasts.

Both July and August saw global box office perform above pre-pandemic averages. Gower Street calculates that the global box office reached $4.54 billion in July 2023, some 17% ahead of the month’s average during 2017-2019, and was an all-time record for July. All three components — North American (a.k.a. “domestic”), China and the rest of the world — beat their averages.

The “Barbenheimer” phenomenon (both “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” released on July 21 in North America and on the same day in multiple other markets) was a significant factor. But the succession of summer hits in China, led by “No More Bets (RMB3.67 billion or $504 million, at the latest exchange rates) and “Lost in the Stars” (RMB3.57 billion or $481 million) has given the Middle Kingdom a seasonal record.

Anticipating another strong lineup scheduled for the early-October holiday period, following China’s National Day, means that Gower Street has increased its forecast for China’s box office by $1.5 billion to $8.3 billion for the full year. If that transpires, China would be the only major box office market expected to beat its 2017-2019 average (by 3%) in 2023. But the China total would still be below the North American aggregate, which the firm projects at $9.2 billion, or 19% below its pre-pandemic average.

The rest of the world (or international, excluding China) market is projected to hit $17 billion in the full year. That is some 15% behind its pre-pandemic average.

August 2023 came in at $3.64 billion globally, up 1% on the three-year, pre-pandemic average, with North America and China both beating their averages and the rest of the world figure lagging by a modest 5%.


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