The numbers are in. As we entered the holiday season, there were two lingering questions:
How big was SPIDER-MAN NO WAY HOME going to be? And does the success of SPIDER-MAN mean that theatrical is alive and well?
To determine that, we looked at the period from Christmas Day through New Year’s Day. With schools out and offices largely closed, those eight days act very much like a long, extended weekend.
For the holiday season that just passed, the cumulative domestic box office for that period was $321M. The chart below shows the grosses for the same period for 2016 to 2019 (2020 was omitted for obvious reasons).
In addition, the chart lists the top-grossing film during that period for each year.
For the four-year period from 2016 to 2019, the holiday box office landed in the $420M to $500M range. The most recent holiday season was down 32% from 2019.
Here’s the remarkable part about this past holiday season. During that eight-day window, SPIDER-MAN accounted for 59% of the box office. By comparison, the top films in other years represented less than 40% of tickets sold. In the case of AQUAMAN, that number is under 30%.
On top of that, it looks like there will be only two December releases this year to cross $100M at the box office. SING 2 will cross the century mark this weekend. You have to go all the way back to 1999 to find a December that yielded only two $100M films.
What does this all mean? It would be great if we could say the success of SPIDER-MAN will be the harbinger of a healthy theatrical business and that studios will now produce hit after hit. Sadly, these numbers suggest the opposite. The overall decline in ticket sales versus previous holiday periods combined with the enormous 59% share by SPIDER-MAN indicates that audiences are simply becoming more selective.