Don’t count out the domestic box office just yet.
A combination of new movie releases, many of which appeared exclusively in theaters, coupled with growing consumer confidence in returning to cinemas amid the coronavirus pandemic led October to be the highest-grossing month for ticket sales so far in 2021.
It’s estimated that moviegoers spent around $637.9 million on tickets over the last 31 days, as they ventured out to theaters to see “No Time to Die,” “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” “Halloween Kills” and “Dune.”
“Though this is likely an anomaly that will perhaps never be repeated, the 10th month of the year has now shown that it can indeed provide a great home for blockbusters of any size or genre type,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.
Many of the films released during the month were slated to open earlier in the year but were postponed due to the ongoing pandemic. This led October receipts to outpace July, which previously held the record for the highest-grossing month in 2021 with $583.6 million in ticket sales, according to data from Comscore.
As of Sunday, the domestic box office has tallied $3.1 billion through the first 10 months of the year, which is 45% higher than 2020’s haul through the same period and 66% behind 2019.
“The industry circled this October on the calendar as an important marker for moviegoing’s pandemic rebound, and it delivered in a big way,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com.
While the summer months are typically the highest-grossing months of the year for the domestic box office, October has made major gains in recent years thanks to blockbuster titles like “Joker” in 2019 and “Venom” in 2018.
In 2019, October secured $789.5 million in ticket sales, the second-highest haul for the month behind 2018’s $832.1 million. October 2021 had a higher haul than the same period in 2017.
Cinemark said Sunday that October was the company’s highest-grossing box office performance month in the Covid-19 era. The month’s results were more than double the receipts of May 2021.
“I am thrilled that we have reached a new milestone within the industry’s recovery, delivering our best monthly box office performance since the reopening of our theatres,” said Mark Zoradi, Cinemark’s CEO, in a statement. “Congratulations to our studio partners for creating must-see big-screen content with something for everyone.”
Heading into November and December, movie theaters will benefit from the release of a number of films that were previously postponed. “Eternals,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and “Encanto” are slated for November and “West Side Story,” “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Matrix Resurrections” are due out in December.
“We’ve been through several of these stress-test periods throughout the year, and there will be more to come during the holidays and winter,” said BoxOffice.com’s Robbins. “Vaccines for young children remain crucial in the long term. All in all, though, theater owners and studios should be very encouraged by the string of recent box office hits and what they signal for the new year around the corner.”
Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal and CNBC. Universal released “No Time To Die” internationally and is the global distributor of “Halloween Kills.”