Coronavirus Hits Box Office and More Theaters Closing

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BY March 16, 2020

It seems like it was only a couple of months ago that the movie industry was disappointed they made only $31 billion last year. That’s because it was a couple of months ago. However, if they were sad then, they’re probably going to be inconsolable this time next year. Because we’re only a few days into its official status as a pandemic, but the coronavirus is already affecting box office receipts. And it looks like it’s only going to get worse.

How Coronavirus Is Affecting the Box Office

coronavirus box office Christian film I Still Believe also underperformed last weekend; image via Lionsgate

Box office totals last weekend–amounting to about $55 million–were the lowest they’ve been since September 2000*. Even a year after that, just after September 11th, theaters pulled in more money than they did last week. Although we can’t know for sure, it seems likely that the advice to practice social distancing played a large part.

After all, Pixar offer Onward dropped 73% from its performance the weekend before. That makes it the steepest drop for a Pixar film ever. EVER. You could perhaps chalk that up to poor word-of-mouth, but it’s certified fresh at Rotten Tomatoes with 87%. And its audience score at the site is even higher.

Furthermore, it wasn’t the only film at the box office to see a sharp decline. Both The Way Back and Emma, for example, fell more than 70% from the week before. And despite domestic expectations of at least $10 million, Bloodshot struggled to make it past $9 million.

Part of the problem for all of these movies is that they couldn’t rely on overseas revenue. As the coronavirus has torn through the rest of the world, they’ve closed theaters and other public gathering spots everywhere from Europe to Asia. Overall, there have been 32 theater markets closed, with 15 partial closures. And with the ‘rona just gettin’ started in the United States, we can expect the same.

More Theaters to Go Dark Stateside

Coronavirus box office My theater isn’t closed; they just let me run loose in it.

Last week, theater chains like AMC announcing social distancing protocols like selling only half the available tickets for each movie. In bigger markets, though, government officials have realized this won’t be enough. For instance, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday, March 15, that public venues like concert halls and movie theaters would be shut down starting Tuesday. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a similar order that same night. Those edicts followed orders already issued in smaller burgs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

While no other locales have enacted closure orders and no chains have commented on their own plans, it seems likely that we’ll see more theaters shutting down. With more than 5400 theaters in the States, that’s a lot of lost movie time. We’ve got more important things to worry about right now than how the coronavirus will affect the box office, of course, but…maybe we should bring back going to drive-ins?

Where are you seeing your movies now that theaters are closing? Or are you still venturing out to the local multiplex? Let us know (from a safe distance) in the comments or on social media.

*Salomé, what was going on in September 2000? Lord, I don’t know. The number 1 movie for that month was Bring It On, which still slaps, obviously. But the number 2 movie was something called The Watcher, which I have no memory of and which could be entirely made up.

featured image via Pixar

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Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf.

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