Global box office revenue in 2023 could now hit $32 billion instead of a projected $29 billion, according to leading analytics firm Gower Street.
The London-based outfit released its updated forecast on the eve of CinemaCon, the annual gathering of theater owners and Hollywood studios in Las Vegas. This year’s edition runs April 24-27. Throughout the week, studios will address the ongoing box office recovery, celebrate their successes from the past year and tout their upcoming releases.
The mood at this year’s show is expected to be upbeat overall. No one expects moviegoing to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 or beyond when there are roughly the same number of releases as before, but there is steady progress. Global revenue hovered around $26 billion in 2022, up 23 percent from $21.3 billion in 2021 (and if Gower is right, this year will again be up 23 percent).
But the recovery isn’t for the impatient — 2022 worldwide box office revenue was still down 38 percent from $42.3 billion in 2019, the last full year before the COVID-19 crisis hit.
Gower revised its 2023 projection upwards after the astounding performance of Illumination and Universal’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, which continues to shatter records three weeks after opening over the long Easter holiday. The Universal film is expected to finish Sunday with nearly $872 million in worldwide ticket sales on its way to becoming the first film of 2023 to jump the $1 billion mark globally.
Super Mario isn’t the only 2023 Hollywood title to prosper. John Wick: Chapter 4, Creed III and Scream VI have all overperformed. And this weekend, Evil Dead Rise is also off to a promising start. Conversely, February’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania hasn’t even cleared $500 million in a rare miss for Marvel.
While domestic box office revenue didn’t match Gower’s projection for the first quarter, the combination of strong returns so far in the second quarter and additions to the upcoming release calendar prompted the firm to increase its full-year estimate by $400 million to $9 billion. If domestic revenue does come in at $9 billion, that would be a 20 percent gain from $7.5 billion in 2022, but down 34 percent from 2019.
Two of the additions to the calendar are a pair of event pics from Apple Original Films: Martin Scorsese’s Western crime drama Killers of the Flower Moon, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone and Robert De Niro; and Ridley Scott’s historical drama Napoleon, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the infamous emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
To the delight of cinema circuits, both Apple and Amazon Studios, which now owns MGM, have decided give some of their movies a traditional theatrical release instead of sending titles almost immediately to streaming.
Apple and studio partner Paramount will open Killers of the Flower Moon exclusively in theaters in October, while Apple and Sony will release Napoleon on Nov. 22. Both will have a global rollout.
Gower’s worldwide 2023 revenue projection of $32 billion includes $23 billion from the international box office, a 25 percent spike over 2022’s $18.4 billion and 37 percent over 2021’s $16.8 billion.
China remains a wild card. While the box office there is rebounding from a disappointing 2022, Hollywood releases continue to struggle (the big exception was Avatar: The Way of Water). Gower projects that revenue from China’s box office will come in at $6.8 billion this year, compared to $4.3 billion in 2022.