Analyst: Box Office Earnings Set to Plunge 70 Percent in 2020

People wearing facemasks walk at the Griffith Observatory with a view of the Hollywood sign at the start of Memorial Day holiday weekend amid the novel coronavirus pandemic in Los Angeles on May 22, 2020. (Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP) (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)
APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images

Box Office earnings will drop by as much as 70 percent over the course of 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to an analysis by Eric Handler of the sales research MKM Partners.

Deadline reports that Handler shared his findings in a memo to clients on Monday, citing additional delays to the release of films and re-opening of theaters nationwide. Major titles such as Disney’s Mulan and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet — the latter of which was meant to kick off the box-office season on August 12th having already faced multiple delays — now appear unlikely to debut to a wide audience given the recent uptick in cases. September is now seen as the earliest date at which theaters will be able to re-open nationwide.

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According to his analysis, earnings will fall nearly 70 percent compared to the $11.4 billion taken last, the second-highest sales in box office history. This is a downgrade from his previous forecasts, which predicted a 55 to 60 percent fall because of the pandemic.

“The near-term outlook for exhibition-related stocks remains extremely clouded,” Handler wrote. “It would be surprising to see theaters able to re-open nationwide before September, at the earliest.”

However, Handler did maintain a note of optimism about the future prospects of the industry, citing people’s desire to get out of their homes and enjoy entertainment once the coronavirus pandemic has passed.

He is currently projecting domestic box office takings of $9.1 billion in 2021, still well below that of 2019, but a return to normal in 2022, with earnings of around $11.5 billion. Out of the major cinema stocks, he maintained a “buy” rating on Cinemark and Imax, while classifying the others as “neutral.”

“Beyond this year, we do believe there is pent up demand for consumers to get out of their houses for entertainment although the ramp-up in attendance will likely be gradual,” Handler explained. “With box office revenue likely remaining at a near-zero level well into the third quarter, the focus is once again shifting towards liquidity and cash burn.”

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