2020 has been a shit hammer of a year for cinema. Fuck, it might spell some kind of End. That outsized canvas upon which the dreams of the world’s most imaginative visual artists are thrown could be in jeopardy. The tea leaves may spell D-O-O-M for the boys and girls of the silver screen.
A yearly comparison of global box office receipts paints a high contrast picture with politically unsettling overtones. The top three hit movies of 2019 were Avengers: Endgame ($2.8b), The Lion King ($1.7b), and Frozen II ($1.5b).
2020? The Eight Hundred ($461m), Bad Boys for Life ($427m), and Tenet ($362m).
Nothing comes close to breaking a billion. Shit, nothing is close to half a billion. That’s to be expected. The theatres were closed—weren’t they? But what, you ask, is The Eight Hundred, sitting atop the global box office as the year is drawing to a close?
Well, it’s an "epic war film" set in 1937, following brave Chinese soldiers fighting tooth and nail while under siege, surrounded by Japanese invaders. So, yeah… it’s kind of a nationalistic Chinese propaganda war film? It took $460m of its $461m in China, where it opened in August.
Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, the biggest thing to come out of Hollywood since the pandemic took hold, didn’t come close to that, despite expectations that it would perform well in almost every major market around the world. The traditionally vibrant film markets around the world have been near-silent.