In 2020, China Surpassed America In Box Office Revenue

Deeper insights into how COVID-19 changed the movie industry last year raises questions for where it's headed next.

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Despite movie theaters, studios, and chains demonstrating a willingness in the United States to get creative and accommodate the new reality that the coronavirus pandemic ushered in, 2020 stands as the first year when China overtook North America as the world's top moviegoing market. By end of year, China earned $2.7 billion in box office revenue, over North America's $2.3 billion.

In a report filed by The Hollywood Reporter, North American box office revenue fell 80 percent last year, while global revenue plummeted more than 70 percent. In the end, clever--and likely in some areas hugely appreciated--tactics like offering (cheap!) private theater rentals were not enough to curb or reverse the wider trends taking hold.

However, China has also experienced a downturn due to COVID-19--the country's box office reportedly sank 70 percent, even while it was able to rebound much more quickly than the United States and much of Europe. Despite this, China set a couple of records by usurping box office chart real estate usually dominated by Hollywood blockbusters: The Chinese World War II epic The Eight Hundred topped the worldwide box office chart with nearly $440 million in revenue, while other Chinese films (including My People, My Homeland) populated the higher rankings.

As you likely already know, Hollywood's major pivot to embracing debuts on streaming services are a major part of this new development. And whatever huge movies didn't migrate to streaming were instead delayed to 2021, which at this early date still offers no indication of where the chips may fall in the end for either the industry or many specific films.

"The movie business will be forever changed no doubt, but movie theaters will be ready for their closeup and as things slowly return to some semblance of normal, they will star in an uplifting sequel of their own," Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said (via The Hollywood Reporter). "2021 will be arguably the most important year in the history of the big screen, and one that will bridge the gap between a devastating 2020 that tragically affected so many people and impacted so profoundly many brick and mortar businesses."

You can check out our running list of the biggest movies to watch (and watch out for) in 2021.

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