Which blockbuster will rule a summer unlike any other?
The 2021 summer box office season will be one unlike any other. There’s hope that the blockbusters on the way will be the saviors of a movie theater industry torn apart by long pandemic shutdowns. But with that comes a sobering truth: The days of chart-topping $100 million-plus opening weekends are still a long way away.
“It took three months for theaters to get to where they are now, and it will probably take just as long if not longer to get them back to normal,” one distribution executive told TheWrap. “Everybody is keeping their expectations tempered.”
With two weeks until Memorial Day weekend — which will see Disney’s “Cruella” hit theaters and Disney+ (as a premium offering) while Paramount’s “A Quiet Place — Part II” is released only in theaters — approximately 63% of movie theaters in the U.S. have opened. Hundreds more are expected to reopen as the summer season finally gets underway, but many will do so under capacity restrictions that are still expected to be in place in many states even as major cities like New York and Los Angeles lift them completely by the end of June.
With that in mind, Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian said that studios should expect films to leg out more than they usually would during the summer instead of relying on strong opening weekends. “Given that we don’t know just how long it is going to be until we see pre-pandemic levels of audience turnout, we should probably expect a $75-80 million opening for the biggest films on the summer calendar,” he said. “Anything higher than that would make everyone ecstatic.”