Entertainment

The Fourth of July box office won't be as robust this year, but it's on the right track

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Key Points
  • The domestic box office has entered a strong period of recovery, but ticket sales over the upcoming Fourth of July weekend may struggle to match levels reached in pre-Covid times.
  • Typically, the weekend centered around the July holiday captures between $150 million and $200 million.
  • While the box office hasn't quite caught up to the ticket sales it was generating in 2019, analysts are confident its trajectory will continue in a positive direction.

In this article

Still from Dreamwork's "The Boss Baby: Family Business."
Universal

The domestic box office has entered a strong period of recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but ticket sales over the upcoming Fourth of July weekend may struggle to match levels reached in pre-Covid times.

Typically, the weekend centered around the July holiday captures between $150 million and $200 million, depending on what films are released and which day the holiday lands on, according to data from Comscore.

Heading into the weekend, the box office welcomes two Universal features — "The Boss Baby: Family Business" and "The Forever Purge" — as well as Searchlight's "Summer of Soul" and the wide release of A24's "Zola."

The previous "Boss Baby" film opened to the tune of $50 million, but expectations from box office analysts suggest the sequel will fall short of that figure. Many question if it will be able to outpace "F9," as the action flick is coming off a strong $70 million opening weekend and should tally around $30 million to $40 million in its second week.

"The Forever Purge" is the fifth film in the horror franchise and could also struggle to garner more than $20 million in ticket sales during its opening. While the first film in the series took in $34 million during its debut, its fourth installment — "The First Purge" — took in just $17 million in 2018.

Both "The Boss Baby: Family Business" and "The Forever Purge" tallied just $1.3 million each at the box office during Thursday night's previews.

Around 80% of movie theaters are open to the public this weekend and mask restrictions have been loosened for those that have received the coronavirus vaccination. While the box office hasn't quite caught up to the ticket sales it was generating in 2019, analysts are confident its trajectory will continue in a positive direction.

Last weekend, "F9" tallied the highest opening weekend of any film released during the pandemic and helped boost the total weekend haul to $98.7 million, another record for the industry. With an influx of new content and strong holdovers from other previously released films, this weekend could be the first to top $100 million in ticket sales since the coronavirus outbreak shuttered cinemas in March 2020.

"There is perhaps no better evidence that the movie theater business is approaching normality than the fact that we are poised for a good old-fashioned crowded theatrical marketplace for an Independence Day weekend that is chock full of movies from literally every genre," Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said.

In addition to "F9," the box office will continue to collect from "A Quiet Place Part II," "Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway," "Cruella" and "In the Heights." However, none of these films cracked $10 million in ticket sales last week. Collections are expected to fall by 25% to 30% this week, which is a standard decrease.

Still, this Fourth of July weekend will easily outpace 2020's meager $1.5 million haul. Last year, the highest performing film over the holiday weekend was the rerelease of 1984's "Ghostbusters."

"The Fourth of July tradition of going to the movie theater will resume this year after a 2020 that for obvious reasons saw theatrical revenues hit an all-time low and saw a 37-year-old movie top the charts in much-appreciated drive-ins that were the only game in town for outside-the-home big screen entertainment," Dergarabedian said.

Hollywood has high hopes that the box office will hit its stride over the summer and into the fall as Americans return to more normal activities. After this weekend, Hollywood is poised to release a slew of blockbuster features including Marvel's "Black Widow," Warner Bros.' "Space Jam: A New Legacy," Disney's "Jungle Cruise" and the DC Extended Universe's "The Suicide Squad."

More than half of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, which has led to a sharp drop in the number of deaths from Covid. The number of new cases had declined significantly in recent weeks, and remains sharply below its peak. However, public health officials are watching the spread of the highly contagious delta variant in communities with low vaccination rates, which has driven a recent increase in cases.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal is the distributor of "The Boss Baby: Family Business" and "The Forever Purge."

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