A turbulent summer reopening brought progress for theaters, but there’s still a long way to go.
The 2021 summer box office was unlike any ever seen, defined more by a still-raging pandemic than by the blockbusters that graced the big (and small) screen. But as the season ended with Labor Day weekend, it’s clear that a lot of progress has been made by studios and ailing movie theaters — but there’s still a long way to go, as year-to-date totals remain 72% behind 2019.
As expected, there were no $100 million-plus opening weekends that usually pop up through this time of year, and fears of speed bumps in the pandemic recovery were realized when the Delta variant spread throughout the world. Despite this, the summer box office – including a final boost from Disney/Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” this past weekend — finished with a total of $1.75 billion, about 41% of the $4.31 billion domestic total of 2019. (Granted, 2018 and 2019 both saw record summer box office due to two mega-blockbuster “Avengers” films.)
It’s also worth noting that the summer period, which is measured from the first weekend of May through Labor Day, was slow this year until the release of Paramount’s “A Quiet Place – Part II” on Memorial Day weekend and ended with the strongest Labor Day opening ever with “Shang-Chi,” an inversion of how summers usually play out.