After coming just short of a $1 billion monthly total in June, the domestic box office reached the milestone in July for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, thanks in large part to the success of Universal/Illumination’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru” and Marvel Studios’ “Thor: Love and Thunder.”
The month began with a stronger-than-expected opening for “Rise of Gru” at $107 million, becoming the first animated film since “Frozen II” to earn a $100 million-plus opening and ranking among the top 10 highest ever for animation. Earlier this week, the film crossed $300 million domestic after its fourth weekend in theaters.
After “Rise of Gru” hit theaters, “Thor: Love and Thunder” added a $144.1 million opening and has since grossed just under $280 million domestic. While the film will gross less than fellow summer Marvel title “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” it has passed $600 million worldwide this week.
The third highest-grossing film this month is the film of the year: “Top Gun: Maverick.” In July, Paramount’s record-breaking legacy sequel became one of the top 10 highest-grossing films ever in North America with $637 million domestic and $1.28 billion worldwide. Late June release “Elvis” also contributed $71 million while this past weekend’s No. 1 film “Nope” has grossed $49 million during five days in theaters.
The box office still isn’t totally back to the levels seen before the pandemic. With the exception of 2014, every July since 2003 has seen the box office top $1 billion, and the monthly total exceeded $1.2 billion each year between 2017 and 2019. But the success of the past three months shows that with the right film, audiences are more than ready to return to theaters, as July should finish with a monthly total of over $1.1 billion after this weekend.
The next challenge for studios and theaters is to build up a consistent stream of popular films, something that will take time given the COVID-19 pandemic’s ongoing strain on production pipelines. In August and September, box office totals are expected to lag before steadily resurging in Q4, starting with “Black Adam” and “Halloween Ends” in October before “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” kicks off a crowded end-of-year slate.