For the past five years, the movie theatres have generated $1.2 billion+ in average annual box office turnover and employed around 13,000 Australians nationally.
Following a buoyant January period where box office was up by 9% versus 2019, the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in March resulted in forced cinema closures, capacity restrictions, the postponement of film releases and public health concerns about attending theatres.
Despite an almost 70% decline in earnings from 2019, the total 2020 box office of $401m was a testament to the Australian public’s ongoing love of seeing movies on the big screen. This result is especially encouraging given the acceleration of audience fragmentation through growing digital content services coupled with stay-at-home trends during the pandemic.
Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony) was the top grossing film in 2020, followed by 1917 (Universal) and Bad Boys for Life (Sony). Of the top films, only two were released after cinemas re-opened in June 2020: Tenet (Warner Bros.) and Wonder Woman 1984 (Warner Bros).
Brian Pritchett, chairman of the MPDAA and MD Paramount Pictures Australia, said: “The death of cinema has been heralded each time a new technology shifted traditional business models. However the unquestionable enhancement of seeing a film on the big screen as well as the sentimental attachment to the communal experience of going to the movies with family and friends has proven to be robust and durable. And the outlook is bright with an abundance of great films releasing in 2021.”
Many of the 39 Australian films released in 2020 had garnered acclaim at festivals and markets prior to the pandemic. While their box office performance was severely impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions, they grossed a total of $22.6m in 2020 with Universal’s The Invisible Man earning over $9m and Roadshow’s Rams taking $4.4m and still screening.
Now and throughout the pandemic, distributors and exhibitors have provided an essential and valued cultural and community resource and a much-needed escape from the stress of this pandemic. With the support of the Government’s JobKeeper scheme, they have also continued to employ thousands of Australians.
2021 has started with terrific results for a stellar line-up of diverse films including Wonder Woman 1984 (Warner Bros.) and The Croods: A New Age (Universal). Australian film The Dry (Roadshow) starring Eric Bana in an adaptation of Jane Harper’s 2016 bestselling debut novel, has earned almost $13m (and is still screening) and Penguin Bloom (Roadshow) grossed $2.5m in its opening week.
Cinemas are reporting a wide range of Australians attending in 2020 – from young families to older adults – as the enhanced state-of-the-art experience endures as a good value and popular out-of-home social occasion.
As a global business, the movie industry will continue to be impacted by cinema restrictions in key overseas territories, particularly the United States. However, the movie-going experience will survive the Coronavirus pandemic and there is optimism about the many highly anticipated titles that will be released in cinemas in 2021, providing audiences with the irreplaceable collective experience of watching great content on the big screen, together.