Even with a majority of the nation’s movie theaters shuttered due to the coronavirus outbreak, and distributors holding back on box office reporting and new releases, there continued to be a handful of cinemas around the country that braved this weekend, and kept their doors open.
And for that, they should be commended.
Depending on the movie, there were between 79-135 theaters that remained open out of roughly 5K that are closed. Those alive were in such DMAs as Phoenix, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, Miami, West Palm Beach, and Nashville to name a few.
And the theaters doing the most of what little business is out there? Yup, drive-ins again. We’ll break that down in a bit.
We could only get our hands on the data for four movies, which are believed to be the top earners for the weekend, and again it’s not the type of cash to be proud of, but what it does show is: Disney/Pixar’s Onward ($71K at 135 locations, -99% from last weekend’s $10.6M), Universal/Blumhouse’s The Invisible Man ($64K at 111 theaters, -99% from last weekend’s $5.89M), Sony’s Bloodshot ($52K at 79 theaters, -99% from last weekend’s $9.1M) and 20th Century Studios/Disney’s Call of the Wild ($46,5K at 86 theaters, -98% from last weekend’s $2.2M).
Among Onward‘s top 30-grossing theaters this past weekend, drive-ins repped 25 of them. For Invisible Man, 20 out of its 30 theaters earned money from drive-ins, Call of the Wild‘s saw 15 out of 30, and Bloodshot 14 out of 30. All of Onward‘s top 20 theaters were drive-ins, led by the Glendale 9 in Glendale, AZ with close to $10K. Invisible Man‘s top 17 theaters were drive-ins, led by the Starlight 4 in Atlanta, GA with $11K. Bloodshot‘s top venue was also Atlanta’s Starlight with just over $7K, while Call of the Wild‘s top theater was the Swan drive-in Blue Ridge, GA with just under $5K.
Given California Governor Gavin Newsom’s orders to close all cinemas in the state until at least March 31 (in addition to bars, health clubs, etc), such drive-ins like the one in Paramount, CA, which was doing quite well last week, did not appear to be open over the weekend.
Despite those theaters this past weekend putting their best foot forward, as National Association of Theatre Owners chief John Fithian told Deadline last night, exhibition remains a distressed business, one which is primed to be saved by the $2 trillion stimulus package that’s being put forward in the U.S. Senate. Exhibitors are in place where they have to continue paying rent, utilities, taxes and possible staffing, and they’re bringing in close to zero revenue at this point. That rescue stimulus would cover those furloughed in exhibition, in addition to loan guarantees for both big circuits and small theater owners. If cinemas are to fully return in roughly two months assuming the coronavirus calms down, then they’ll need the proper funds now to stay viable in the future.
A $15 billion U.S. industry has been erased over a week’s time, and it’s going to need all the help it can get to make comeback. Two weekends ago when news first began to break about the coronavirus in the U.S., the weekend B.O. remained steady at $100.7M for the period of March 6-8, +1% over the previous frame. Those numbers dropped 46% to a two-decade low of $54.7M last weekend as pandemic fears swelled.
Heading into the theatrical shutdown, a number studios quickly segued their current theatrical releases into homes. Onward, Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma were available for in-home rental this past weekend. Other titles, such as Bloodshot, will be available for digital sell-through tomorrow.
China is slowing resuscitating its exhibition infrastructure with catalog titles as 507 cinemas opened over the weekend. More is expected this coming weekend, with fresh local and Hollywood titles in the marketplace expected to be on marquees by mid-to-late April.