Before we look at the summer 2021 box office numbers, it should be noted that the 2020 figures won’t be a factor. Just about every planned summer release was delayed due to the pandemic and that would mean 2020 would easily win the crown of the lowest box office numbers on record. Since 2021, had a relatively steady flow of film releases, we can access how the numbers stack up to previous years, and surprisingly 2021 held its own, thanks in large part to Disney.
The summer box office as of September 8, 2021, was at $1.75 billion. Disney led the way with $483 million, thanks in large part to Black Widow and the recent success of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, while Universal (including Focus) comes in with $407.4 million. Disney becomes an even bigger winner if you factor in their 20th Century releases which bring their total to $586.1 million.
Here are some crazy figures since the box office didn’t really return fully until the release of Fast 9 in June, although some credit A Quiet Place Part II with getting things started over Memorial Day weekend. The summer box office makes up for 80% of the current full-year total of $2.21 billion. Just for a few giggles, comparing this to 2020, the summer 2021 box office is up 893% from the same first weekend in May through the Labor Day period last year, which registered a dreadfully low $176.4 million. The last time summer fell around $1.7 billion was 29 years ago in 1992 when the summer saw $1.73 billion in grosses.
So is the box office bouncing back? It’s showing definite signs but industry insiders say we can’t say we’re back to normal until we start beating 2019 numbers. The good news is that the Labor Day holiday pulled in $139 million, 14% ahead of the numbers from 2019. The whole summer season is behind 2019’s $4.35 billion by 60% but we need to pay attention to smaller growths in the weeks ahead. September is pretty light but October through the end of the year sees a slew of new releases that will add to the yearly take for the box office. It may not be what it was just yet, but it’s certainly putting up a fight.