Your Real Box Office Champion of 2021 Is…

No Time to Die still
Photo courtesy of MGM
Matthew Belloni
November 14, 2021

Last year, most of the personal achievements in professional sports came with an asterisk due to the Covid-shortened seasons. The M.L.B. pitcher who won the Cy Young that year, for instance, started calling himself the Mickey Mouse Cy Young Award Winner on social media.

So who’s taking the Mickey Mouse Box Office Award for highest-grossing movie of 2021? It’s not Disney, actually. With its strong opening this weekend in Australia, No Time to Die is now projected to cross F9’s $721.1 million global number sometime around Thanksgiving, according to both MGM, its domestic distributor, and Universal, which handled most overseas territories. With neither Eternals nor Venom: There Will Be Carnage getting a China release, and nothing major coming before year’s end (except Spider-man: No Way Home, which drops Dec. 17 and will earn mostly in 2022), it’s safe to say the Bond film played a long game and came out on top.   

That’s a win with a big asterisk—2019’s champion, Avengers: Endgame, grossed between three and four times the likely Bond number. And if producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson were satisfied with the gross, they wouldn’t have signed off on MGM offering the movie on premium V.O.D. after just 30 days, well short of the 75-90 day window for Spectre. But it’s still notable, given the geezer-skewing audience for the franchise. Studio research showed that 25 percent of the over-35 audience said this was their first movie back in theaters, I’m told.

Of course, this is just the Hollywood movie of the year. The actual top grosser will almost certainly be The Battle at Lake Changjin, a three-hour Chinese war film that has grossed $874 million and was released in only one country.