Box office struggles to recover from 2020


Gaby Jones

Amidst the pandemic, movie theatres suffered from altered film release strategies. A shift from ticket sales to streaming subscriptions are one of the newest main strategies for movie debuts, and this year the subscriptions have surpassed one billion.

Gaby Jones, Managing Editor

More and more today, large-scale Hollywood productions are becoming easier to see within the comfort of viewers’ homes. This new change has brought up many questions about the future of the film and movie theater industries as the new viewing experience becomes more normalized. 

Movie theaters are among the slew of recreational activities that have seen a significant decline in profits due to COVID-19. As the world has begun to open up again, box offices are slowly starting to recover from the reported mass dip in sales. Even so, the modifications that were made to movie distribution during the height of the pandemic still linger today. Movie distribution will most likely never be the same.  

One of the biggest modifications that has led to the evident decline in revenue stems from numerous films being simultaneously released on streaming services the same day their theatrical release. A large example of this new strategy occurred recently with Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune.” 

In the United States, the $165 million film premiered on HBO Max on the same day it hit the big screen and stayed on the site for members of the service for one month before being removed. Warner Bros initially cut this deal to distribute multiple new films on HBO in attempt to comply with the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic and what it may mean for movie theaters and the liveliness of audience members returning to the big screen.  

According to, Warner Bros altered the deal for 2022 and will have an exclusive 45-day theatrical premiere before the films are shown on HBO.  

Many well-known filmmakers such as Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and the aforementioned Villeneuve have all criticized streaming and have stated a variation of the fact that it alone cannot be the future of cinema. 

On the other side of the spectrum, audiences and industry professionals alike have expressed joy in its convenience, wide variety of preexisting and original content.  

During 2020, it was reported by Variety that the United Sates Box Office plummeted 80%, barely reaching 2.2 billion dollars in revenue, which is the lowest it has been in 40 years. However, in 2021, huge franchises with exclusively theatrical releases have been a large factor in reviving the box office sales to some extent. “No Time to Die,” “F9: The Fast Saga” as well as multiple Marvel films that have come out this year are some of the highest grossing films of this year. 

It is unlikely that movie distribution will ever return to solely theatrical releases any time soon, and it will be a while before box office numbers remarkably exceed pre-pandemic numbers. The general public, big budget studios, and filmmakers will soon have to accept the presence of streaming services as a dominant way in how audiences will consume media.