North America Is Overtaking China as the Largest Global Box Office Market

'F9'Credit: Universal Pictures
The global box office is expanding, and North America is now on top. 

The last two years of COVID have ravaged the box office. We saw many movies struggle. And we saw streaming become a default for many studios. This struggle has been one of the biggest fights in our industry. But as the pandemic winds to a (hopeful) close, we're going to see the theatrical box office matter even more. And now there's a new global king in the theatrical box office—North America.

The U.S. box office on top

According to U.K.-based research firm Gower Street Analytics, they forecast North America to overtake the top market. 

China had previously been the largest global market, but COVID hurt revenues, and the U.S. and Canada have been slowly getting people back into seats. And with Top Gun: Maverick opening this week, it's set to start the summer season off with a bang as well. That's good news, because we're still only at around 85% of all global theaters being reopened after the pandemic. It's an admirable number, but nowhere near full strength. 

Estimates put the world around 40% of what the box office used to be before the pandemic, but at this point in the year, we're 60% ahead of where we were in 2021. 

Why should filmmakers care?

There are lots of reasons for filmmakers to be interested in this news. The robust North American market could help create a trend that gets people back to theaters all over the world. It's still important that your movie travels, but having an American market so hungry and huge helps a lot. It can make a little movie with legs and excellent word of mouth, like Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, a breakout hit.

But you also have to have distributors willing to release a movie like that wide, or roll it out and see if it can gather a groundswell of support. And that can be harder to find. 

Let me know what you think of all these shifts in the comments.      

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1 Comment

Hopefully this data will encourage Hollywood to stop pandering to the censors of an authoritarian country and get back to telling good stories again.

May 23, 2022 at 11:50AM

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