The biggest movies of 2022

Hi everyone, this is Elliot, a data vis developer here at Datawrapper. This week, I’m pulling out the receipts for a look back at the past year in cinema.

What was the best film you saw in theaters last year? I would have to say the dimension-hopping action film Everything Everywhere All At Once, or perhaps the sci-fi horror mashup Nope.

Neither of which, alas, cracked the top 20 films of the year by box-office revenue. The #1 spot went to Top Gun: Maverick, closely followed by Avatar: The Way of Water (which may yet overtake the former in lifetime revenue). You can see the rest in the chart below.

In the case of Top Gun, the long-awaited sequel to the 1986 original, roughly half of its $1.5 billion revenue came from U.S. & Canada ticket sales alone. In comparison, Avatar has so far underperformed in North America but made much more money overseas, especially in China.

After two tough years for the film industry, movie studios must have been hoping for a return to normality. Unfortunately for them, 2022 was another duff year — in the U.S. and Canada, movie theaters brought in just over half as much money as in 2019.

A new hope for Hollywood? Perhaps cinema-goers in China will return in 2023 after three years of pandemic disruption. In 2019, box-office revenue in China was only about a third smaller than the U.S. & Canada market. And even this year, three Chinese-language movies made enough money to break into the global top 20 of 2022, despite limited or no release abroad.

Scoring a big hit in China can greatly boost ticket sales, such as for Avengers: Endgame, which made over 20% of its $2.8 billion revenue there.

However, only a limited number of international movies are allowed to open in China each year, and in some cases, movie studios will make changes to appease censors — for example, editing out dialogue about a gay relationship in The Secrets of Dumbledore or adding a second ending to Minions.

That’s a wrap, folks. Come back next week for the latest installment of Weekly Charts, when Aya will be sitting in the director’s chair.