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Film industry saw relative comeback last year

Greg W. Locke

Whatzup Features Writer

Published January 5, 2022

Last year was something of a recovery year for the film industry, with $4.46 billion in sales. Compared to 2020’s $1.42 billion in sales, not bad; compared to 2019’s $11.43 billion in sales … oof. Still a long way to go.

Will the film industry ever get back to the $12 billion mark in sales, as it was on pace to do prior to the COVID-19 pandemic? I would bet against that ever happening, but who knows.

Maybe once COVID is “over,” people will remember how much they loved being out of their house and going to the movies. Fingers crossed.

Spider-Man at Home Atop Sales List

Spider-Man: No Way Home was the year’s highest grossing film with $572 million in domestic sales and just under $1.4 billion in worldwide sales. Wow.

This one is still selling strong and, if it keeps it up, will go down as one of the top grossing films ever. Impressive, considering the circumstances.

Here are the Top 10 highest grossing films (domestic sales only) of 2021:

10. Free Guy ($121.6 million)

9. Ghostbusters: Afterlife ($123.4 million)

8. A Quiet Place: Part II ($160.2 million)

7. No Time to Die ($160.7 million)

6. Eternals ($164.7 million)

5. F9: The Fast Saga ($173.2 million)

4. Black Widow ($183.6 million)

3. Venom: Let there Be Carnage ($212.5 million)

2. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ($224.5 million)

1. Spider-Man: No Way Home ($572 million)

So, as expected, 2021 was a movie year dominated by sequels, franchises, and superhero films. Of the 29 films that sold at least 5 million domestic tickets, only four aren’t already established IP.

Most are sequels or franchise films made by major studios, meaning that there wasn’t a single breakthrough indie hit in 2021.

The closest we got was David Lowery’s excellent The Green Knight, which sold just $17 million. Oof, that hurts.

PT Anderson released a new classic called Licorice Pizza that’s a perfectly fun time at the movies, and so far it’s sold just $6.3 million despite having a pretty strong promotional campaign.

Awards Season

But when we, the fans, look back at 2021 will we care about box office numbers? Probably not. We’ll most remember 2021’s crop of films by how the awards season honors them. So, with that in mind, as we move from 2021 to 2022, let’s quickly take a look at how the awards season is going so far.

My rankings are based on awards and nominations given so far, which includes most of the main awards (though not the Oscars, which comes later):

Best Picture: 1) The Power of the Dog; 2) Licorice Pizza; 3) Belfast; 4) West Side Story; 5) Dune; 6) Drive My Car; 7) CODA; 8) King Richard; 9) The Green Knight; 10) tick, tick … BOOM!; 11) The Lost Daughter; 12) Pig; 13) Spencer

That Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth isn’t listed blows my mind. I think eight of the Oscar best picture nominees are included in that crop. Can you guess which eight?

Best Director: 1) Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog; 2) Steven Spielberg for West Side Story; 3) Denis Villeneuve for Dune; 4) Kenneth Branagh for Belfast; 5) Paul Thomas Anderson for Licorice Pizza

Best Actor: 1) Benedict Cumberbatch; 2) Nic Cage; 3) Andrew Garfield; 4) Will Smith; 5) Peter Dinklage; 6) Denzel Washington

Feels like a Denzel year to me, but don’t be surprised if Cumberbatch and The Power of the Dog dominate this year’s Oscars.

Best Actress: 1) Kristen Stewart; 2) Jessica Chastain; 3) Olivia Colman; 4) Alana Haim; 5) Lady Gaga; 6) Tessa Thompson

Kristen Stewart is just Hollywood enough to beat out Olivia Colman’s incredible performance in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s brilliant directorial debut, The Lost Daughter.

So that just about wraps up 2021. Stay tuned for plenty of Oscars coverage in the coming weeks.


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