National Cinema Day Brought In Record Crowds, But Was It Enough?

National Cinema Day drew theatergoers out in droves, but did it have any lift to the industry as a whole this summer?

By Doug Norrie | Published

national cinema day

There’s no doubt that the pandemic hit the movie theater industry hard. Of course, the economic pain of 2020 was felt in numerous areas and arenas but the live theater-going experience was definitely one of them with that year representing basically the worst-case scenario for movie houses. But things are starting to pick back up and 2022 appears to be getting things back on track where movie tickets are concerned. Look no further than National Cinema Day which was celebrated on Saturday of Labor Day weekend and took a concerted effort by movie chains across the country to bring in folks on the promise of cheaper tickets. It sure looks like the gambit worked.

According to Variety, National Cinema Day was a chance for more than 3,000 movie houses to lower their ticket prices to $3 a movie (no matter what was playing) in an effort to put butts in those seats. Considering the average movie ticket is running about $9.17 these days, it’s no wonder a bunch of people tried to take advantage of the offer. And with the holiday weekend meaning folks were looking for things to do, plenty of people showed up. The reporting from Comscore has it that theaters taking part in the day brought in more than $24.3 million in movie ticket sales on Saturday, well up from the number reported the previous weekend even when the latter was at full price. 

Seeing as how Labor Day weekend in the United States isn’t typically one that sees any big releases hitting theaters, all of the movies that were playing on National Cinema Day were ones that have been running for some time now. Movies like Top Gun: Maverick which is over $1.4 billion in box office earnings right now and has been in theaters for more than three months was still a big draw. It’s sitting 12th all-time in earnings as of this writing. Other movies in theaters included Spider-Man: No Way Home which got a re-release, DC League of Super Pets, Minions: Rise of Gru, Bullet Train, and Beast among others.

For theaters, 2022 and National Cinema Day have represented a bounce back to box office earnings after a painful 2020 and 2021. Following the pandemic in 2020, Statista has it that only around 220 million tickets were sold that year, down from more than 1.2 billion in 2019. This made sense considering pandemic measures shuttered many places. 2021 saw the number tick up to close to 500 million tickets sold which was still way off the previous pace. 2022 the reported data from The-Numbers has current ticket sales of over 840 million for the year with the Fall and Christmas release schedules set to buoy that number more. We could see ticket sales get back close to 2019 before it’s all said and done.

It looks like National Cinema Day, along with excellent performances from some blockbuster movies this year would indicate that theater attendance is nearly fully back from the pandemic. That’s great news for the movie industry and the brick-and-mortar movie houses as well.