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Movie Theaters Slowly Recovering From Pandemic Closures

July 6, 2021 by Dan McCue

Movie theaters are seeing a slow uptick in their business as summer and reopenings continue, but the box office take for 2021 to date is still 81% below where it was pre-pandemic, according to analysis by Variety magazine.

Though the traditional start of the summer movie season was somewhat delayed this year, with many communities still being under COVID-19-related gathering restrictions Memorial Day weekend, the steady release of “blockbusters” since then does appear to be drawing paying customers back into theaters.

Variety credits Universal’s action franchise “F9: The Fast Saga” (which has taken in $123 million to date), Paramount’s thriller “A Quiet Place Part II” ($145 million) and the Warner Bros. monster movie “Godzilla vs. Kong” ($100 million) for helping revive the movie theater industry, a feat it calls “impressive” at a time of rising streaming services and lingering hesitancy about going to the movies.

The industry bible says hopes are high this trend will continue when Disney and Marvel superhero adventure “Black Widow,” starring Scarlett Johansson, arrives on the big screen next weekend.

It will be followed into theaters in coming weeks by “The Suicide Squad” and “Jungle Cruise,” the latter a Disney vehicle starring The Rock.

All that said, Variety reports that as of early July, the overall domestic box office has reached $1.05 billion in ticket sales, down 42.3% from 2020 and down 81.3% from 2019. 

At the same point in 2020, North American revenues had tallied $1.825 billion because the movie business had been operating normally until the middle of March and had seen commercial triumphs with “Sonic The Hedgehog” and “Bad Boys for Life.” 

By July of 2019, the box office had hit $5.6 billion thanks to the combined success of “Avengers: Endgame,” “Captain Marvel,” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”

“But since May, the trajectory of the box office has mostly started to improve on a weekly basis since brick and mortar movie theaters have been reopening in earnest and Hollywood studios have finally been opening new movies theatrically,” author Rebecca Rubin writes. 

There are currently 4,698 theaters in North America that are open for business, an improvement from the 1,341 venues that were open in 2020 but still down from the 5,839 locations that were open in 2019. 

The number of cinemas that have reopened continues to improve each week, though 19% of multiplexes in North America — many of which are in Canada — remain shuttered, Variety says.

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