2021 has been an intriguing year. During the summer, it was trailing behind domestic ticket sales of 2020, the worst year for film (due to COVID). Then, once the fall and winter seasons hit, the box office rose in unspeakable ways, and it proved that even in the darkest of times, audiences will still commit to anticipated blockbusters like they did before public health crises stormed the world. Some films gave us hope this year, while others shattered our dreams. And others worked with what was feasible at their distribution releases. After a long year and 2022 coming, it’s time to look at some of the winners/losers of the 2021 film box-office collection.
Talk about a superb way to relaunch the box office.
F9 kicked off its opening weekend with 70 million domestically, the highest opening since Star Wars Episode 9 in December 2019. It crossed 100 million domestically and 500 million worldwide in record time during the pandemic era. At one point, Universal held down the fort with the top three spots alongside The Boss Baby: Family Business and The Forever Purge.
It’s another Fast and Furious film where gravity, physics, and logic are tossed out the window in favor of jolts of energy and fanfare. Director Justin Lin returned to the franchise to slingshot beyond self-parodies and believability to bring a sense of imagination and fun. It worked, and the next (last) two main installments will reunite Vin Diesel and Co. for something even more ridiculous (or Ludacris, pun intended).
The question is whether he can fully convince Dwayne Johnson to return and end their prospective blood feud.
Loser: Snake Eyes (and all of G.I. Joe)
It doesn’t make sense. So why are we still doing this?
The G.I. Joe series has become marred by weak narratives, inconsistent CGI, and okay-ish performances. Heck, they even have brought in A-list cast members to suffer through these messes, and it all does not continue to click. Snake Eyes had no momentum because the IP branding stood ruined for years. Thus, it made 40 million dollars on an 88 million budget, which means it bombed outright.
Yeah, Ray Park’s lead in the first two (The Rise of Cobra and Retaliation) made a decent amount of money despite hefty budgets. The latest G.I. Joe addition solidifies that not all action figures, board games, or superheroes stand equal. Something has got to give. Plus, the feature had to deal with the ongoing nature of the pandemic, so it was hoping for some miracle to achieve success.
It didn’t find one, and the series continues to slog on through a pile of mud with no endgame in sight. But, with news of another film on the deck, it’s probably time for the G.I. Joe series to become shelved.
BIG Winner: The Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man, and the prospective Marvel Multiverse
As always, Marvel films will shine. The superhero genre continues to prosper in pandemic times, and this year was no exception. The MCU brought in Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, and Spider-Man: No Way Home. Sony collaborated on No Way Home while releasing Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
All did their parts well, especially Spider-Man, as his film conjured up more than 1 billion dollars and is the highest-grossing film of the year. We’ll see how far Tom Holland’s latest movie will get, but it will not be able to reach the 2-billion-dollar mark (unless China finally releases it). Still, it should become significantly applauded to pull off something remarkable and bring back the nostalgia in fitting fashion. I’m one to argue that it might catch (or barely creep past) 2019 The Lion King’s worldwide totals (1.66 billion), but we’ll see. For now, it is officially Sony’s biggest global grosser of all time and the most extensive domestic earner since The Lion King over two years ago.
Venom 2 raised around 500 million dollars, keeping the Marvel action humming along. The Tom Hardy/Woody Harrelson feature offered plenty of CGI absurdity, but not enough of a compelling premise to keep it memorable (other than the first live debut of Carnage). The post-credits scene is a banger, though, and when followed through in Spider-Man, we’ll see what the future holds for Tom Hardy and Venom.
And, since the multiverse was tapped into briefly in No Way Home, it gives the future a good look for upcoming Marvel films. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (helmed by Sam Raimi) promises to be spectacular, plus Thor: Love and Thunder, Morbius, Black Panther 2, and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One) all debut in 2022.
Let’s see what kind of ideas the universes (and multiverse) have in mind in 2022.
Loser: The DC Extended Universe should’ve produced more this year
Why does this keep happening, DC?
Even in a year where the films did happen to deliver, DC films still managed to collapse somehow. Diehards finally got their dream when Zack Snyder’s version of Justice League dropped on HBO Max to better(ish) reviews compared to the mediocre one in 2017. Still, that setback Warner Brothers 70 million dollars for all the reshoots, additional scenes, and marketing to get folks to tune in onto HBO Max. Plus, the studios have no desire to allow Snyder to finish out any other projects he envisioned years ago and appear to follow the baby steps Marvel took with smaller, intact stories.
So, it now drives frustration into audiences (and even directors) alike for not having their voices heard. Check out David Ayer, who wants to make his original cut of Suicide Squad. Who knows, maybe Patty Jenkins didn’t like how Wonder Woman 1984 came out either.
Then, The Suicide Squad was released at the end of summer but became a box-office disappointment due to branding, the dual release, COVID, lack of marquee stars like Will Smith, and the questioning over whether it was a reboot/sequel. Kudos to James Gunn for making a fantastic product and spectacularly allowing actors like Idris Elba and John Cena to shine in a violent, fun outing. But the practicality is that its predecessor sucked while grossing a crazy amount of money that a sequel could never exactly outshine it (even if it’s leagues better). The feature fell into the same trap as Addams Family Values, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, and The Angry Birds Movie 2.
With the combined budget of 255 million dollars for both films in a topsy-turvy year, HBO Max was never going to save them.
If they released another DC film, say Black Adam or The Flash, near Christmas with solid reviews, it could’ve potentially overperformed and might’ve redeemed the financial losses of the other two films this year. But, again, DC spent more time running backward than forwards this year.
At least the product quality of DC films improved vastly this year, so a small win amidst chaotic times.
Winner: M. Night Shyamalan’s Stature
M. Night Shyamalan may be notorious for pulling off some of the most preposterous twists in cinematic history, but he is undoubtedly bankable. Even after some massive slumps such as The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth, he still made substantial amounts of profits. Heck, Glass earned over 250 million on a small 20 million budget. Split utilized the star power of his originality and James McAvoy to bring in 276 million dollars on a (what the heck?) 9-million-dollar budget. And Signs gathered up 408 million on a 72 million budget.
His drawing power reminds intact while producing high-concept, original thrillers that made folks show up to see what kind of tricks he would whip out once the third act took place.
Old, released in the summer, smothered up a fascinating idea and an unknown cast (with mixed results) to bring in 90 million on an 18 million budget. That’s impressive in the pandemic times, especially considering how divorced Shyamalan is from brands, IP, and franchises. We didn’t even know Unbreakable and Split would lead to a secret trilogy capper until the latter dropped a nice tease at the last scene (with a Bruce Willis cameo). Old played more like The Visit than Split, but it still beat out expectations (and competition) to make an outstanding return on its investment.
Whatever macabre or supernatural thriller Shyamalan offers; we go to witness. And perhaps that is his metaphor hiding in plain sight of branding.
Loser: Warner Brothers Putting All Their Eggs in One Basket for In The Heights
Supposed colorism or not, In The Heights is one of the year’s best films. It’s a beautiful celebration of heritage and culture in the setting of Washington Heights. Several subtle themes become touched upon in a mesmerizing work that should be watched by those who adore musicals.
Unfortunately, Warner Brothers put too much time and money into the marketing aspect and to pay more to the directors when they announced their simultaneous release plan would apply to all their films in 2021. The film grossed 43 million, and it bombed severely.
The company didn’t want to put all the blame on HBO Max. Still, other factors suggest the runtime, many American theaters remaining closed (or having limited audiences) during its release, and the cast having little recognition contributed. The HBO Max deal was the icing on the cake to pull (some) viewers away from the theaters to witness it at their homesteads.
This year, Warner Brothers’ tactic has been partially helpful and damaging to the overall theatrical run of its newest releases. I mean, why exactly bother to witness a film in a public place where anything can go wrong rather than the confinement of one’s home with family? Plus, In The Heights dealt with the competition of A Quiet Place Part 2 and The Conjuring 3. More audiences relish horror than musicals nowadays.
At least not all WB films suffered the same way in 2021…
Winner: Godzilla vs. Kong Survives WB’s Simultaneous Release Plan
It might be slightly cartoony, but promising and delivering on kaiju action brought audiences back in unstable times to the theaters. Godzilla vs. Kong was fun, with the two iconic monsters coming to blows a few times throughout the feature.
It earned a 123 million worldwide opening and a 48 million five-day domestic weekend, the biggest openings of the pandemic (at the time). Warner Brothers also reported the film had “a larger viewing audience” than anything on their streaming service since its launch.
The feature deserved to be witnessed at theaters rather than on a smaller screen at households. It lived up to the name after offering backstory for both monsters (well, Godzilla got two films), relishing in all the chaotic, bloated action one generally enjoys. Watching these two share the cinema for the first time since 1963 packs a wallop.
The fourth MonsterVerse entry survived WB’s concurrent release initiative and is the eighth-highest grossing film of the year. That’s a win Warner Brothers needed after Tenet could not secure enough to break even months prior.
Loser: Universal’s Dear Evan Hansen
Oh boy. Musicals have had a rough shed of a year, and Dear Evan Hansen was no exception. The stage musical adaptation failed to live up to the hype and collapsed on its debut. Unfortunately, the handling of the story and trauma themes were hard to swallow, and the tone appeared more distressed than emotionally inspiring.
Whether it was the casting of 27-year-old Ben Platt or the story of hope and inspiration, the film reeked of embarrassment. It was shot down in its debut with a 7.5 million opening, falling in second place after Shang Chi. The poor reviews, reluctance to witness musicals, and lack of direction did not get the Universal followers.
It could’ve been so much more. Like West Side Story and In The Heights, Dear Evan Hansen (regardless of reviews) stood doomed to fail.
Winner: Free Guy’s Performance Elevated by Ryan Reynolds
Even when COVID was still prevalent, Free Guy did a solid job at the box office this year. The fun, self-aware gaming blockbuster amassed over 330 million during the summertime. It turns out that utilizing a gaming world like Ready Player One will put folks in seats. It outlasted Respect and Don’t Breathe 2 in its opening weekend (for a good reason) and maintained solid word-of-mouth to carry it forward. It’s a potential new franchise, too, since a sequel (which is confirmed) will be Disney’s first live-action cinematic franchise (not counting the MCU) since National Treasure and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Ryan Reynolds might be born to play Deadpool, but his work in Free Guy should not be overlooked. He and Jodie Comer became perfectly cast to lead this video game feature. Reynolds might have an inconsistent bankability (a la The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard and Red Notice) in 2021, but Disney knows they can keep him pleased for the time being until we get Deadpool 3.
Loser: The Last Duel, West Side Story, and Nightmare Alley’s Release Timing
It is a great shame that all three of these features bombed at the box office this year. No, it’s not because these films aren’t great (which they are). It’s not because Ridley Scott said things concerning millennials and cell phones. And it could potentially be from the seismic shift from theaters to a cinematic presence at one’s household.
Perhaps the sole detrimental flaw for why these films fell…was the timing.
The Last Duel received a B+ from CinemaScore, and a 72% recommend rating from PostTrak. Still, it was released when Halloween Kills captured 50.4 million in its opening weekend, and No Time To Die was making money worldwide. Heck, even Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Addams Family 2, and Shang-Chi were still holding form when Scott’s latest feature debuted.
West Side Story and Nightmare Alley had the same issue, but this time, the impending release of Spider-Man: No Way Home stole all their supporters away. Not exactly a win for the studios unless they gain some spots in the Academy Award nominations next year. So, the reason wasn’t because of millennials, but because things are still quite shaky, and folks are hellbent more on witnessing superhero, sci-fi, or action/adventure films in 2021.
And speaking of genres…
Winner and Loser: The Horror Genre
The selection of horror films in 2021 was shockingly astounding and somehow was not too far off from matching sales in 2019 (around 200 million less domestically). A Quiet Place Part 2 rocked the Memorial Day weekend and got stellar results at the box office. Candyman was surprisingly effective under Nia DaCosta’s direction, and Malignant dumbfounded us with one of the craziest twists (on par with M. Night Shyamalan’s). Last Night in Soho may not have won at the box office, but Edgar Wright dutifully paid his respects to the 1960s.
Unfortunately, not all was swell this year for scary territory. Even if it was profitable, Halloween Kills stood as a complete filler (until we get to Ends next year). Don’t Breathe 2 came as a massive disappointment, considering its predecessor told a disturbing story. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is passable but underwhelming than its previous installments. And Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is laughably bad (and may have future video games pondering if their source material should come to the big screen).
Next year, Scream, The Black Phone, and Jordan Peele’s Nope will try to bring more substance back to the horror genre (assuming they pull it off).
Loser: The Drama Genre
The horror genre might’ve (nearly) matched sales in pre-pandemic times, but the drama genre is still failing to drum up significant coinage, a reality that has become prevalent for years now. There were only five drama films in 2021: Respect, The Green Knight, Stillwater, Cry Macho, and News of the World.
Most, if not all, garnered praise from critics and audiences alike. Altogether, they collected 74 million domestically and 98 million worldwide. That statistic is pitifully low and only barely beats out musicals this year by 34 million in domestic sales. The bar will be even higher than ever, and drama films will have to be on the lookout to continue to stay relevant. Perhaps they may need to readjust their distributions and might need to consider jumping to streaming platforms on a full-time basis.
Good luck with their chances in 2022.
Winner: John Cena’s Star-Making Year
Talk about a year for Mr. Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect.
John Cena, the former face of the WWE, became a hot commodity (well, not solely because of specific Taiwan comments) for the entirety of 2021. The sixteen-time world champion rocked the screen in three featured films in theaters and homesteads. F9 had him working alongside Vin Diesel in one of the year’s top-grossing films. The Suicide Squad gave him a superb outing as a jingoistic, ruthless, Johnny Topper-like villain. And Vacation Friends allowed him to make all the c*** jokes possible, with the Hulu feature becoming the most-watched original movie in the service’s opening weekend.
He also returned to WWE for a short run, “The Summer of Cena,” and ended it by headlining a record-breaking Summerslam PPV in Las Vegas in the hopes of dismantling the record for most world championships in the company’s history. Coincidentally, it was against a cousin of The Rock, who Cena himself chastised (ironically) for heading out of the pro wrestling business to try other ventures.
Now, Cena heads into 2022 with a surplus of mainstream energy. He will star in Matthew Vaughn’s Argylle, The Independent, and reprise his role as Peacemaker (from The Suicide Squad) for his character’s series on HBO Max. He will also return to cohost season two of Wipeout, return for Vacation Friends’ upcoming sequel Honeymoon Friends, and (probably) return for the last two main installments of the Fast & Furious (which begin filming in January).
If there is someone primed to sit atop Hollywood’s highest rings (after following in the footsteps of Dwayne Johnson and Dave Bautista), it’s the guy we all cannot see.
Winner: Lil Rel Howery’s Underrated Presence in Several 2021 Features
Remember the MVP of Jordan Peele’s Get Out? Well, that was played by none other than Lil Rel Howery. And credit where it’s due, this talented actor had roles in eight films in 2021, which might be a record of some sort. Judas and the Black Messiah, Tom & Jerry, Bad Trip, Fatherhood, Space Jam: A New Legacy, Free Guy, Vacation Friends, and National Champions all had Howery in a supporting, let alone significant, role of some sort.
Yes, some folks can go on an enduring tangent about how his name cannot pull audiences quite yet like a Ryan Reynolds or Vin Diesel. But having him stand toe-to-toe with a multitude of top Hollywood stars and reveling in his comedic chops is worthy of recognition. So, here’s to hope one day he can find that one role that will define his evolving movie-making career.
Winner: Zendaya’s Marketability
Two film bombs earlier in the year might not have accomplished much for the young actress, but the other two Zendaya partook in elevated her status in more ways than expected. Her appearance in Dune was marketed heavily before the film’s (delayed) release in October 2021. In the (mostly good) feature, Zendaya played a much more minor role than expected, becoming limited to gauzy images of the main protagonist’s visions. Not precisely an outstanding performance, especially with her presence stamped on the (numerous) trailers.
In Spider-Man: No Way Home, the biggest film of the year, she played a solid supporting role as MJ alongside Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, and the marketing even teased a possible death on behalf of her onscreen character. Thankfully, it didn’t manifest (spoilers, I guess), and the character could return in future Spidey films. Plus, she and Tom Holland are officially dating, so congratulations to them.
Now, she’s poised to return for Dune Part Two and whatever else the future has in store for the 25-year-old, who has come a long way from the start of Shake It Up.
Speaking of Tom Holland…
Winner: Tom Holland Achieves a Massive Milestone
This one is small, but Forbes put out a list of actors/actresses who starred in three one-billion-dollar grossing films (or more), and Tom Holland now joins an (elite) exclusive club with No Way Home’s performance.
He now has several one-billion-dollar grosses to his name and joins the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, and Scarlett Johansson at the top of the mountain. What a superb run for an individual his age. He has an extended chance of getting to the top, but it will require some fantastic marketing and anticipation to give him the crown.
For now, Tom Holland can rest easy, knowing that his name has vigor behind it for his upcoming slate of films.
Loser: Scarlett Johansson’s Lawsuit
A lawsuit on any studio’s hands is not a good sign, and a case from one of the most popular stars of this generation is an exhausting battle.
Almost three weeks after the simultaneous release of Black Widow into theaters and Disney+, Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit against Walt Disney because the release tactic employed breached a notice in her contract as the film (initially) was to have a traditional theatrical release. The 24th entry in the MCU reportedly made 140 million in its opening weekend, but 45.5% of that came from Disney+. And since streaming services/VOD work differently than box-office totals, the film lost money in the long run as a result.
As explained a while back, Black Widow suffered the same issue Jungle Cruise, and Cruella did: a hybrid release downturn. We’ll never exactly know how much money was lost since COVID dismantled a lot of potentials. The film only garnered 380 million in its entire theatrical run, miles from the previous MCU film’s Spider-Man: Far From Home’s 1.1 billion in the summer of 2019 and an impossible distance from Avengers: Endgame’s monstrous 2.8 billion (which starred Johansson herself). Johansson’s solo outing in the MCU is the third-lowest grossing film in the entire series’ theatrical release runs, the only MCU film to deal with a hybrid release, and a good superhero story that came several years too late.
Hypothetically, if it released directly after the fallout of the exceptional Captain America: Civil War, the feature could’ve made closer to 1 billion than 500 million. It also could’ve competed directly against Warner Brothers’ Wonder Woman, making audiences decide which superheroine to side with within a bright time. And it could’ve given more content with the supporting characters than rushing through them (remember that Disney had to release this film in time for the Hawkeye show on Disney+).
Thus, it’s a massive slap in the face to Johansson as she busted her voluptuous ass for over a decade to get this result. One of the leading members of the original six Avengers (alongside Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, and Jeremy Renner) lost in aching fashion, and she deserved so much more. Even since she and Disney resolved the lawsuit over the film’s profits, she won with her message, but the blow to profits is uncurable. Who knows, maybe her time with Disney has come to a sorrowful ending.
Loser: Tom Cruise’s Delayed Films
Mission: Impossible 7 & 8, and Top Gun: Maverick will have to wait much longer than expected to land in theaters. Each of the Tom Cruise works became constantly hampered by COVID for the past year, and each time a delay is announced, it costs more to the film in the long run.
Yes, Mission: Impossible Fallout was phenomenal and grossed slightly under 800 million on a 178 million budget. But the upcoming seventh installment has been delayed by 14 months. With a budget on par with Fallout, that means the Cruise film must get at least 750 million to break even. Cruise’s expletives onset regarding protocols may have amounted to frustrations and lack of safety in the enduring days of production shutdowns.
Whatever the case may be, let’s hope his upcoming films will deliver and not get delayed once more.
Winner: The (Continually Delayed) Releases of No Time to Die, Dune, Eternals, and No Way Home
Ah, it turns out, patience is a virtue. It didn’t work for The Suicide Squad. It didn’t entirely work for Black Widow. And it bombed when it came time for Chaos Walking, West Side Story, The King’s Man, The Last Duel, and more.
No Time to Die finally came after such a long (gasping of air) marketing reign. Each time a new trailer was promised, a new release date reshuffled the last dance for Daniel Craig’s James Bond. And who could blame them? MGM and Universal desperately needed a win in all markets available. Hell, the continued delays even put Cineworld in shutdown for some time. Finally, it dropped in October to solid reviews despite a long runtime and made 775 million. Unfortunately, it did miss its break-even mark, but the film toppling F9 as the highest-grossing film in the US (at the time) was a sign of hope from an unstable box office.
Dune and Eternals suffered delays and managed to crawl their way past hefty marketing costs to win out when audiences’ anticipation was through the roof. And No Way Home marked its spot near Christmas to break 1 billion dollars rapidly and will continue to push its way up the ranks into one of the highest-grossing films of all time (even if it’s without a China release).
Sometimes the waiting game works; you have to see it for yourself.
Loser: The Matrix Resurrections
Oh man, talk about a ball drop. This ball was dropped so hard it fell to the center of the earth without making the slightest movement (unless you’re Keanu Reeves).
This year, this is one of the rare films that was not blatantly affected by COVID or the simultaneous release onto HBO Max. The atrocious 22.5 million Christmas weekend debut occurred because of the title itself. Lana Wachowski may have gotten to rerun her world of crafting another Matrix chapter, but it riffed on legacy sequels and (somewhat) toxic nostalgia. Resurrections is more of another continued chase to redeem the horrendous stature of Revolutions nearly 20 years ago, rather than rebooting the once flawless franchise.
Another thing to consider is legacy sequels work well on a lower budget (except for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World). Creed, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and Halloween (2018) brought back old characters (or settings), re-spined the formula again, but on small budgets that could accommodate any harm to the distribution. Terminator: Dark Fate fell prey to the issue because its budget was too high for an R-rated film, like The Suicide Squad. The branding became mangled with too much for those franchises to adjust.
Resurrections was sold as “another” Matrix film (with our review here), settling on so much of what made us enjoy it in the first place rather than break any new ground. It also did not bring back Laurence Fishburne or Hugo Weaving. It is also the direct sequel to Revolutions; an inferior feature released months after Reloaded got its chance to impress with a 742 million gross. Unfortunately, many of us did not enjoy Matrix 3, and possibly even Matrix 2.
Resurrections also never had a chance because Spider-Man: No Way Home got the nostalgia done correctly and managed to pull off a marvelous feature we didn’t think was possible with a 260 million record-breaking opening weekend (days before). So, it would have never broken out for a cornucopia of reasons. Sure, audiences adored the first two Terminators, the first two Alien films, the first Predator, and the first Matrix. But that doesn’t equate to a desire of big-budget, soulless reboots that only serve in attempting to pad the entries of a franchise that formerly had a footing. So, studio executives wanted it, not exactly the audience.
And as stated before, the audience is the deciding factor on what films they want to witness.
With the continued rise of Disney and Netflix, the regaining stability of Sony, and the up-and-down state of Warner Brothers, studios continue to fight for the money and all the supporters.
Paramount, one company that cannot do so anymore, has struggled for the past six years.
Recall that they were the leader in the global theatrical market well over a decade ago, kickstarting the Marvel works, getting big bucks from DreamWorks and Hasbro. Then, things fell apart rapidly. DreamWorks departed from Paramount in 2012, Disney bought Marvel in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012, and more streaming services came to rise in 2015/16 that Paramount fell out of place in our hearts. Even their Star Trek reboot became redundant and partially irrelevant.
Again, Paramount was on a comeback for 2020 before the pandemic hit after Disney had their fire sale year in 2019. They lost much on Sonic The Hedgehog, A Quiet Place Part 2, Top Gun: Maverick, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run, selling out titles during the pandemic to rivals, who are doubling down on IP franchises to rake in goods amount of money now. Paramount+ is out of touch compared to Netflix, Disney+, and even Hulu.
Its lessening film output has been a long time coming ever since they relinquished huge brands (like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars). They can survive but do not have enough in their bag of tricks to possibly thrive.
Winner: The Slow Comeback of the Movie Theaters
It is great to finally welcome audiences back for so many anticipated titles. After months and months of slow-burning times with low capacities in auditoriums, it finally feels as if we’re reaching back a state of normalcy in pre-pandemic times. We must thank certain blockbusters this year (and timing) to lure us back.
Folks still admire action/adventure, sci-fi, and superhero films. Horror gets a chance at victory here and there. And other films will still win us over (or not) due to the cast, directors, or new stories. Yes, COVID and variants are lurking about, but it’s much more at home to witness a new feature that folks at the movie theater should appropriately view.
BIG Winner: Streaming Services
Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, Hulu, YouTube TV, and more we must thank while we have been relaxing at our homesteads. It is not the same as the theater experience, but it does offer an alternative for folks who wish to enjoy new content (for safety reasons).
Millions continue to subscribe each day to at least one, if not multiple. Ads can be removed for an extra cost, while some new films may debut directly on the service for an additional charge. It’s a win for studios either way since they make more of a direct return on investment than putting a film in a theater chain. (Of course, to abstain oneself from bias still works against theaters’ prosperity.)
Some services will work around the theatrical releases getting their just desserts before they absorb the content in the end. So the question is, how long can they sustain their growth over these harsh times? Or will they grow/dissolve once the pandemic passes through our history?
Ask again at the end of 2022; maybe we’ll have a better answer.
Winner: Several Avengers: Endgame records were broken…during a pandemic year
This writer is as shocked as many are out there, but Avengers: Endgame, the former highest-grossing film of all time, has lost a few of its records to other films.
We’re talking about (arguably) the biggest film of all time since the finale broke tons of records, gave audiences emotions that were borderline implausible, and managed to fittingly cap off a beautiful franchise (while kickstarting the next era of MCU stories). It’s one the world needed to see after the iconic cliffhanger at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, where the heroes lost somberly, and their antagonist won the (first) war.
Detective Chinatown 3 set a new record for the largest opening weekend in a single territory, beating Endgame by 40 million dollars. Avatar reclaimed its crown as the highest-grossing film of all time after a re-release in China. Spider-Man: No Way Home’s trailer broke the number of views in one day with a monstrous 355.5 global views (compared to Endgame’s 289 million). And the latest Spidey film managed to get some other records under its belt, such as the 24-hour social media conversation volume and money grossed on a daily intake (for specific days).
It’s impressive that in a year where things are still wobbly, the theaters can still break the box office, and records are made to become broken. Endgame set the bar for many sagas, so we’ll see if some other features can ruffle its feathers in a future timeline (no pun intended).
Loser: The Lack of Safety on Film Sets Regarding Firearms and their Future
If it isn’t spelled out by the image above, a dreadful incident happened on the set of Rust this year with Alec Baldwin holding a firearm that went off, and it, unfortunately, took the life of the principal cinematographer and wounded the director.
And it sadly isn’t the first time a prop gun took the life of an individual onset. Brandon Lee, the brother of Bruce Lee, had his life taken on the set of The Crow in 1993 while Jon-Erik Hexum self-inflicted a blank cartridge gunshot to the head in 1984. So, it’s devastating to realize how a prop weapon at an instance might carry the power of a real firearm.
The moral of the story is guns should have their presence on any film set re-evaluated. The proliferation of guns in media might be enthralling for many in respective genres, but the real world stands already shattered by the terrible situations that involve a firearm. Safety should always be a top priority, no matter what the case. Every person should repeatedly check every single weapon on deck. Some conspiracies might claim that sabotage was involved in the incident but taking someone’s life is a painfully heartbreaking reality that many witnesses or hear of every day.
It’s not justifiable for any human to encounter, and the incident certainly will haunt Mr. Baldwin for life. May Halyna Hutchins rest in peace.
Winner: 2022 Builds Momentum in Attempt to Restore the Box Office to Decade of 2010-2019 Unparalleled Numbers
Despite the vigorous efforts of the superheroes, James Bond and Vin Diesel, theaters have yet to rebound admirably in a pandemic-battered year. The overall domestic box office revenues will hit around 4.5 billion in 2021, a 91% increase from 2020 (but a 61% decrease from 2019). It’s progress, but not enough to have studio executives expecting more bonuses.
There is high optimism that 2022 will be the year where audiences are more eager to return to the big screen. Barring any further release date reshuffles, there are several promising future attractions that audiences have their eyes upon next year.
Fandango has provided some great news regarding anticipation. The most anticipated films of 2022 are Black Panther 2, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (Part One), The Batman, Thor: Love and Thunder, Jurassic World: Dominion, Doctor Strange 2, Avatar 2, Aquaman 2, Top Gun: Maverick, and Mission: Impossible 7.
It’ll be quite the journey, and if all goes well, we could return to the numbers of the last decade to satisfy all parties. And maybe COVID will calm down a lot more, if not wholly.
Time will tell, but c’est la vie.