Coronavirus Outbreak

Box office in North America plunges to new low in over two decades

LOS ANGELES • Prior to last Friday, fears of coronavirus did not appear to impact movie-going in North America. But last weekend's box office results show that significantly fewer people are going to their local multiplex.

Ticket sales in North America hit the lowest levels in over two decades, generating roughly US$55.3 million (S$79 million) between last Friday and Sunday.

Only one movie, Disney-Pixar's Onward, made more than US$10 million last weekend. The last time revenues were this depressed was a weekend in mid-September of 2000 (US$54.5 million). The steep decline pushed the year-to-date box office down almost 9 per cent, according to Comscore.

Domestic receipts were inevitably going to plummet last weekend because AMC and Regal, two of the biggest movie theatre chains, and several other circuits cut capacity in individual auditoriums by 50 per cent to avoid crowding.

Reducing the number of tickets sold per theatre helped multiplexes comply with recommendations by United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention for "social distancing". Theatres also kept room between rows and seats to ensure patrons had ample space.

So in all, low ticket sales were a combination of audiences staying home and theatres capping seating capacity.

The previous weekend's champion, Onward, remained the No. 1 movie at the domestic box office, as three new films opened to varying degrees of disappointment.

Onward pulled in US$10.5 million in its second outing, a brutal 73 per cent decline from its inaugural weekend. After two weeks of release, Onward has made US$60.8 million in North America and US$101 million globally.

Faith-based drama I Still Believe, from Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company, pulled in the biggest haul among newcomers and placed second on box-office charts. The film, starring KJ Apa as Christian singer Jeremy Camp, earned US$9.5 million from 3,250 theatres, slightly below expectations.

Sony's superhero thriller Bloodshot, starring Vin Diesel, launched at No. 3, bringing in US$9.3 million from 2,861 venues.

The Hunt, a political satire from Universal and Blumhouse, came in fifth place with US$5.3 million from 3,028 locations, about half of what was expected heading into the weekend. It came in behind fellow studio release, The Invisible Man, now in its third frame. The Elisabeth Moss-led sci-fi thriller generated US$6 million, enough for the No. 4 spot.

So far, The Invisible Man has a cumulative tally of US$64.4 million in the US and Canada and US$122 million worldwide.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2020, with the headline 'Box office in North America plunges to new low in over two decades'. Print Edition | Subscribe