Universal exec says box office to be down ‘for a long time’



Despite strong ticket sales from the new James Bond and “Fast & Furious” movies, Universal Pictures chairwoman Donna Langley doesn’t expect the box office to return to normal anytime soon.

“I think the industry is in this moment of evolution, we are surfing the wave of change right now,” Langley said at The Information’s WTF conference Thursday. “I think what we are seeing play out now was happening pre-pandemic. The streaming companies doing extraordinarily well, scaling their volume output, that has been happening for a while.”

While the exec pointed to the pandemic, which ravaged the movie theater industry, as accelerating Hollywood’s move to streaming, she said that change was inevitable and that Tinseltown is still adapting to the “new normal.”

“Inevitably a year from now things will look different than they do today,” Langley said, offering her own conservative view of how the movie theater industry will rebound.

The AMC Empire 25 off Times Square is open as New York City's cinemas reopen for the first time in a year following the coronavirus shutdown
The box office is beginning to show signs of recovery, thanks to new movies like “F9,” “No Time to Die,” and Disney’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
AFP via Getty Images

“None of us really know anything. If you look back a year ago, we certainly thought the industry or theatrical moviegoing, would be back in full swing by now,” Langley said. “We are anticipating the [theatrical] market to be down by 20 percent going forward, and for it taking a long time to get back to those pre-pandemic numbers.”

The box office has had a bumpy 2021, but has shown strong signs of recovering after 18 months of movie theater shutdowns, reopenings at limited capacity and a dearth of new Hollywood films.

In an aerial photo shot with a drone an empty parking lot is seen in front of a Cinemark theater shuttered by the coronavirus COVID-19 on December 04, 2020 i
The coronavirus ravaged the movie theater industry, causing cinemas to close for much of 2020.
Getty Images

This year, the global box office is on track to gross $20.2 billion, up 68 percent from the pandemic-hobbled 2020 which brought in about $12 billion, according to Gower Street Analytics. But 2021 is still far off from 2019’s record-breaking year, which reeled in $42.5 billion.

So far, 2021 has been boosted by box office leaders like “Hi, Mom,” a Chinese comedy that has brought in over $822 million, as well as Universal Pictures’ “F9,” the latest action movie in the “Fast & Furious” franchise with $716.6 million, according to ticket sales tracker, Box Office Mojo.

Donna Langely and Vin Diesel
Universal Pictures’ chairwoman Donna Langely with Vin Diesel, star of “F9” and the “Fast & Furious” franchise.
Getty Images

Media critics are keenly watching how the new James Bond flick, “No Time to Die” does this weekend when it opens in the US and on Oct. 29 when it premieres in China. The film, which is distributed internationally by Universal and domestically by MGM, has already reeled in a whopping $119 million from overseas markets last weekend.


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