The box office world of cinema has been turned upside down this year as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic closed theaters across the globe. As moviegoers are aware, this has led to almost every major release of the year seeing some kind of delay, be it a few months or a few years.
Up until recently, no significant releases had dropped since the pandemic began last March except for Christopher Nolan's Tenet. Studios are struggling to maintain their bottom line while theater chains haven't seen any substantial income in over a year.
In order to see some kind of cash flow, many of Hollywood's biggest distributors have opted to release films as streaming exclusives and video-on-demand purchases. With a blockbuster slate ahead for the second half of 2021, the film industry is poised to make a substantial recovery as the economies of the world reopen.
Godzilla vs. Kong released this month simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. It is already proving to be the biggest film since the pandemic began with $391 million grossed globally so far.
While this shows signs of a recovering theater industry, there's still a long way to go before moviegoers feel comfortable enough to fill screens with several hundred people. Fans shouldn't expect to see multi-billion dollar grossing movies like Avengers: Endgame and Avatar for some time, but the vaccine rollout gives hope that movies may finally start turning out bigger profits again.
Earlier this year, James Cameron's Avatar reclaimed its record as the highest-grossing film from Marvel's blockbuster team up after almost two years in the top position. Now, the legendary director has offered his thoughts on the streaming takeover of the industry, sharing his hope for the recovery of theaters.
JAMES CAMERON SHARES HOPE FOR MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR MOVIES
In an interview with The Tonight Show — shared via IndieWire — to promote his upcoming Disney+ special Secret of the Whales, director James Cameron shared his thoughts on the need for movie theaters to recover.
When asked for his thoughts on holding the box office record, Cameron said that “everybody makes a big deal” but implied that he doesn't care much about it. He went on to explain that “what we really need to focus on is getting back to theaters” so that movies, notably Endgame, Avatar, and "the big Marvel movies," can “make $1 billion or $2 billion” again:
“Everybody makes a big deal out of [the box office battle], but the truth is what we really need to focus on is getting back to theaters. Hopefully, we can still have movies like that, ‘Endgame’ and ‘Avatar’ and the big Marvel movies and all that, movies that are able to make $1 billion or $2 billion.”
The record-breaking filmmaker shared his fear for the future of the industry and his hope that “movie theaters are still there after this pandemic” as more content moves to streaming. He reaffirmed this fact by stating that “movie theaters are a sacred experience:”
“Let’s pray that movie theaters are still there after this pandemic and after this shift towards streaming, not that I have anything against streaming. There’s great writing and great shows in [streaming], but let’s remember that movie theaters are a sacred experience for all of us. Let’s get back out there when it’s safe to do so.”
WHERE DOES THE FUTURE OF BOX OFFICE STAND?
While it's clear theatrical runs will see lower performance for the next year given COVID-19 restrictions and simultaneous streaming releases. Godzilla vs. Kong was a positive step in the right direction for the film industry, making it possible for another billion-dollar film within the next year.
Marvel Studios hasn't dropped a theatrical release since Spider-Man: Far From Home in July 2019, which grossed over a billion dollars, so the standard is set high for the first film of Phase 4 of the MCU.
Black Widow and Shang-Chi may release a little too soon to see anything insane from the box office given many countries still have theater restrictions in place. Additionally, the Disney+ Premier Access release of the Scarlett Johansson-led film will certainly hold back its theatrical performance.
Ultimately, as long as moviegoers have the option to view a film in the safety of their own home through streaming services, box office numbers will continue to lower.
However, there may be some hope for films like Eternals and Spider-Man: No Way Home to potentially come closer to the ten-figure mark given their star-studded casts and high expectations.
James Cameron's record-breaking Avatar franchise will return to theaters in its long-awaited sequel on December 16, 2022.