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Movies were supposed to be huge in 2020. We had a Black Widow film to see, Wonder Woman was coming back, and a new James Bond flick was set to break records.

Thanks to COVID-19, the biggest movie we can currently see in theaters is Tenet. It’s only made $45 million in the United States, although it’s approaching $300 million globally.

With most films delaying their release until 2021 because of the ongoing coronavirus concerns, it is looking like 2021 could be a better box office year. Hollywood has that hope, at least. It may be a short-sighted perspective.

How Much Money Will People Have in 2021?

Economists expect the U.S. economy to fall by at least 4%. That would be the steepest decline since the 2009 recession that saw it fall 2.5%.

Part of the reason for that forecast is the 31.4% reduction in economic activities from the second quarter of 2020. Coronavirus lockdowns halted a ton of consumer spending, with layoffs and unemployment creating even more problems.

About half of American households experienced income loss at some point because of COVID-19. Almost 900,000 people are still filing claims weekly, which is a massive number compared to 2019 figures.

Most people are scraping by with their current economic circumstances. Having money to go to the movies doesn’t make sense right now.

Rent Is Coming Due for Many Americans

Eviction moratoriums have kept people in their homes, but those rules aren’t forgiving rental payments. As tenants ask for these bills to get canceled, landlords are wondering if they’ll ever get paid.

Some renters have not paid their monthly amount due since April. Under the current structure of the law, payment arrangements for what got missed must take place. If that doesn’t happen, an eviction can happen once the moratorium expires.

Even if someone has a low rental cost, say $600 per month, that could be $6,000 in debt to pay. Who can afford the movies when you need to put a roof over your head?

Some households are thriving. A few families have bought homes, expanded businesses, and experienced income growth. Will they go to the movies? If they feel safe from COVID-19, perhaps. That’s the only lifeline available to the box office, which is why 2021 may not be a great year. 

Scott Larson