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The 2020 Box Office Numbers Show How Much Trouble The Movie Industry Is Really In

It's safe to say 2020 has turned out very differently than most people imagined it would. 

The beginning of the year saw wildfires take over much of Australia as well as the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant. Those tragedies turned out to be only the appetizer of what would be an extremely challenging year, as the COVID-19 pandemic gradually spread all over the globe. By March, the United States had become inundated with the virus with many states shutting down non-essential industries, including film productions and movie theaters.

While many people were looking forward to seeing the likes of No Time to DieBlack Widow, and Wonder Woman 1984 in theaters this year, most major films pushed back their release dates into 2021 and beyond. One exception was Christopher Nolan's Tenet, which premiered in theaters in late August in the U.K. and early September in the U.S. Its lackluster performance at the box office — particularly for a Nolan film — really cemented the idea to movie studios that there were no profits to be made in 2020. Even though some areas of the U.S. have movie theaters open, it seems that, by and large, audiences aren't comfortable sitting in an enclosed space with a bunch of strangers while a pandemic rages on.

It's increasingly likely that 2020 will be a wash for the movie industry. While a COVID-19 vaccine may be available before the end of the year, the vast majority of the population won't be inoculated against the virus until April to July 2021; that's really the earliest we can expect things to regain a semblance of normality. As for now, it's looking like 2020 will be the worst year at the U.S. box office in over two decades (via CNBC). 

2020 movies have grossed a fraction of what 2019 films did

2019 was a banner year at the box office, and 2020 was always going to have an uphill climb to try to beat it. After all, nothing released in 2020 was ever going to make as much money as Avengers: Endgame, which became the highest-grossing movie in history when it earned nearly $2.8 billion worldwide. However, the stark contrast between this year and last year really becomes apparent when you compare the 2020 and 2019 domestic box office grosses

The highest-grossing film in 2019 was, as mentioned, Avengers: Endgame, which brought in $858 million in the United States alone. The highest-grossing movie of 2020? Bad Boys for Life, which brought in $204 million domestically, just over a quarter of what Endgame brought in. Even more astounding is the fact that nine other films from 2019 earned more money stateside than Bad Boys for Life did. 

It's looking like Bad Boys stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence will retain the top spot since not much is scheduled come out in the remainder of 2020 — apart from Wonder Woman 1984. The sequel flick, starring Gal Gadot as the titular hero, will arrive in theaters on December 25 ... but considering it's also coming out on HBO Max the very same day, most people will decide to stay home to watch it rather than risk COVID-19 in the middle of a winter surge. Thus, it's likely that Wonder Woman 1984 won't make very much money domestically, though there's a chance its worldwide gross will see it become the biggest movie of 2020 — though there's no doubt it will earn far less money than it would have if the novel coronavirus was never a thing. 

When all is said and done, it's looking like the domestic box office gross for 2020 will be just over $2 billion, according to stats compiled by Box Office Mojo. Back in April,  Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter predicted that the worldwide box office would close out at $6.6 billion at the end of 2020, a sliver lower than 1998's $6.7 billion worldwide box office haul. At the time, Pachter's prediction factored in the opinion that "most theaters will remain closed domestically well into June, with a slow recovery over the balance of the year," but that clearly hasn't happened and the movie industry has suffered for it. 

While $2 billion sounds like a lot of money, that's a decrease of 79.6 percent compared to 2019, which brought in $9.8 billion domestically, per Box Office Mojo.

It's a sad state of affairs for the movie industry, and it will likely stay that way for a while. Major blockbusters really don't return to theaters until April 2021 when No Time to Die gets released, and even that could get delayed again depending on how things go these next few months. No doubt Hollywood is chomping at the bit to recoup costs, and hopefully, audiences return to theaters once again to keep the industry alive once it's safe to do so.