The good news for lovers of the cinematic experience? A trusted industry analyst believes that movie theaters will rebound to record levels. The bad news? This probably won't happen until 2023. But that does mean, perhaps, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for theater chains and studios that can ride out the storm. What this all boils down to is pent-up demand for moviegoing once it becomes safe to do so for the general public once again.
This box office prediction comes from Eric Wold of B. Riley Securities. Wold is a veteran analyst who is a trusted source for Wall Street types in this area. In a recent note to clients, Wold explained that companies in the exhibition space, such as AMC Theatres, have experienced slower-than-expected recovery following the disaster that was 2020. Much of this has to do with the fact that vaccine rollout has been messy and slow. As such, 2021 has not offered greener pastures at the box office. At least not yet. But Wold believes that this will lead to even more demand once the situation improves. Compared to 2019, when domestic box office totals hit a record $11.9 billion, he believes 2021 will see sales fall 40 percent. Then 7 percent in 2022.
But beyond that, it's smooth sailing. Eric Wold expects that ticket sales at the domestic box office will see a 7 percent increase in 2023. If that holds true, a new record would be set and Hollywood would be able to breath more easily. But things will hopefully begin to get better in the next several months. Even though several big movies such as Ghostbusters: Afterlife, No Time to Die and Morbius were delayed recently, Woll says, "As long as you can make it to July, then you can participate in the recovery." Meaning, if studios and theaters can hold out until summer, they can get in on the upswing. Even if it will be a relatively slow upswing.
This means that studios, theaters and movie lovers may need to suffer more delays in the coming months. Titles like Black Widow that have not yet been pushed back almost certainly will be. While some blockbusters like Wonder Woman 1984 have opted to go the streaming route, it is generally difficult for big movies like that to make enough money with a hybrid release. As such, many studios seem content to ride it out, as frustrating as it may be to suffer these delays and release date changes.
Considering the box office dropped a staggering 81.6 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, even a marginal improvement in 2021 would be welcome. As Eric Wold suggests, box office receipts could hit around $7 billion this year, assuming all goes well. AMC Theatres recently secured funding to avoid bankruptcy. Vaccines are, slowly but surely, getting out into the world. Assuming streaming services don't totally consume the media landscape in the next year or so, movie theaters should be back in a big way. Eventually. This news comes to us via Deadline.