movie theaters
movie theaters

Los Angeles and New York City on Monday announced the closure of movie theaters and other live performance venues, for the first time in U.S. history, in an effort to combat the coronavirus.

The decisions came after box offices suffered a cheerless weekend due to reduced screenings in most parts of the country, especially in major metropolitan areas such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, where the incidence of COVID-19 is relatively higher. Since ancillary revenues from foreign sales, home video/DVDs and streaming are still largely tied to box office performance in the North American market, many theater chains were reluctant to take steps to limit or ban public attendance at their theaters amid the coronavirus outbreak. However, with the United States now facing an increasingly grave public health crisis caused by the coronavirus, local government officials have started to make the call that people should “shelter in place” and avoid public assemblies.

Up until Friday, attendance at movie theaters nationwide did not seem to be significantly affected by the growing pandemic. But the past weekend has witnessed box offices take a serious tumble. Revenues of the U.S. box offices plummeted 45 percent this week from last weekend’s gross, a trend which is likely to continue over the next two to three weeks as more theaters shut their doors in an effort to flatten the pandemic’s infectious curve. Regal and AMC, two of the largest movie theater chains in the United States, and several smaller cinema chains have halved the seating capacity at their theaters to help maintain the 6-foot (1.8-meter) social distancing rule recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, more moviegoers have chosen to stay at home voluntarily, causing a further dive in ticket sales. “The impact of this unprecedented situation was apparent across many industries,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore, a U.S. media measurement and analytics company. “Of course, movie theaters, amidst reduced capacity and an ever-evolving set of circumstances, had a very challenging weekend.”

Disney’s animated offering — “Onward”– topped box office revenues last weekend, and made it again over the weekend, though with a dismal take of only 10.5 million U.S. dollars, a 73-percent reduction from last weekend. This brought its overall tally to 60.8 million dollars in North America and 101 million dollars globally, an abysmally low figure for the reliable hitmaker. Disney’s other release still in theaters, “The Call of the Wild,” starring Harrison Ford, reaped only 1.1 million dollars globally this week, giving it a cumulative total of 107 million dollars worldwide. Lionsgate’s faith-based Christian drama, “I Still Believe,” pulled in a disappointing 9.5 million dollars, almost half of the 17-million-dollar feature film “I Can Only Imagine” done in 2018 by the brothers, Andrew and Jon Erwin.

Sony, China’s Bona Film and U.S.-based Cross Creek’s co-production, the Vin Diesel starrer, “Bloodshot,” clocked in at third place with 9.3 million dollars domestically. The superhero thriller also pulled in 13 million dollars internationally, though not nearly enough to recoup the film’s 45 million dollars’ worth of production budget. Variety, a U.S. media company, reported that initial cinema closures have resulted in billions of dollars of revenue losses for the U.S., Chinese and other film industries worldwide. Given the widespread theater closures in the United States and across the globe in reaction to the coronavirus outbreak, many of the major studios’ releases slated to debut in March and April have been postponed and are awaiting reschedulings. Bumped films include such potential heavy-hitters as Disney’s live action “Mulan,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place Part II,” MGM’s “No Time to Die” and Universal’s Vin Diesel starrer “Fast and Furious 9.”



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