Box Office Fades To Black As Coronavirus Shuts Down 4K North American Theaters Into May: Where The Studios Stand & What’s Next?

U.S. movie theaters close down over coronavirus
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times via AP

UPDATED with charts of 2020 domestic box office standings to date, final charts for the weekend of March 13-15, Monday and Tuesday.

“For all intents and purposes, the industry is shut down,” screamed one studio boss last night about the state of exhibition. “What’s left that’s open?”

AMC New York city theater coronavirus shutdown
The lobby of the AMC Empire 25 sits empty in New York City Yuki Iwamura/AP/Shutterstock

With Cinemark shutting down Tuesday, the last of the major circuits alongside AMC, Regal, Cineplex Odeon, Marcus, Harkins and more, there really isn’t much left in regards to those cinemas braving the current coronavirus climate, which is also impacting restaurants, schools, gyms, bars, etc., across the U.S.

At present, distribution executives estimate around 20% of the nation’s movie theaters remain intact and open for business, while the number of those that have closed either out of circuit safety, or local orders, is near 4,000.

With AMC announcing at most a 12-week shutdown (which could take us to June 5, yikes) and other chains like Regal and Cinemark not specifying how long they’ll be shuttered, everyone in the motion picture industry is wondering when we’re going to come out of this.

How will the big circuits, especially AMC, emerge? The chain was already in rough financial shape before the coronvirus hit North America; AMC’s market cap currently is $258.5 million. Is it end of days for mom and pop cinemas? Word began to spread Tuesday that Regal Cinemas was already furloughing certain employees, film buyers among them.

Black Widow Marvel Studios

Overall, if the domestic box office is closed until the end of May, that’s an estimated $2 billion blow. Yet there are some in distribution and exhibition who believe that money can be recouped during the second half of 2020.

But where do you begin to make that up?

It’s clear with all the delays occurring, old titles, when they resurface, will likely push newer ones off the schedule, possibly into 2021. Disney is finely calibrated in their control of key dates to just bump one title to the next calendar slot. According to Disney, it’s still TBD where Marvel’s Black Widow will go next, but it wouldn’t be a shocker if the big pic moves to July 3 and pushes 20th Century Studios’ Free Guy later in the calendar, or to July 24, thus bumping Disney’s Jungle Cruise later, or even November 6, thus sending Marvel’s The Eternals into next year.

Mulan Disney

Also, it’s not going to be easy to turn back on the entire domestic theatrical system as quickly as it was to shut off.

Similar to what’s being proposed in China, will exhibition return with staggered reserved seating and auditorium capacity limits (of 50%)? Will various communities or cities become more effected by the coronavirus than others, thus slowly the re-opening of theaters? Are round-the-clock showtimes, which juiced Avengers: Endgame to a record opening weekend, a distribution feat of the past? Or will showtimes be limited now?

Also, Hollywood can’t turn the box office back on alone. They’ll need help from the major sports industry. Sporting events are a huge part of a movie’s TV spot and outdoor spend and essential to grabbing male moviegoers’ attention.

“Where are we going to advertise? On CNN?” cried one distribution boss.

A Quiet Place Part II
“A Quiet Place Part II” Paramount Pictures

Many agree: Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II and Disney’s Mulan are in a great position to return quickly when theaters revive as both pics have already clocked impressions among potential moviegoers. Industry sources tell me that whenever either film opts to return, they will only need 2-3 weeks in regards to their marketing push.

In regards to a box office chart moving forward, this morning’s might be the last time you see one until either May or early June. Should a handful of theaters remain open as the rest of the nation takes shelter in their homes from the coronavirus, major studio distribution executives are conflicted as to whether those small-dollar figures should be public.

Monday was an atrocious day at the box office, and yesterday even worse, and you can see the results for yourself below. Not that Monday is ever a great moviegoing day (except whenever there’s a big event movie in the marketplace), but those movies in the top 10 dropped 70% or steeper from their Sunday results. Tuesday, given that it’s a discount move day, largely sees a spike over Monday’s numbers. That didn’t happen. While we’ve included the weekend theater counts, they’re not reflective of Monday and Tuesday’s business as several cinemas have closed. I’m told whatever cinemas in New York that were open Monday reported (both L.A.’s and NY’s forced closures went into effect Tuesday AM). Los Angeles’ box office figure were also included in Monday’s numbers below, through I hear theaters were pretty empty.

Sunday’s business for the top 20 was estimated at $12.7M, a figure that dropped 72% on Monday with $3.5M, then another 63% yesterday with $1.38M.

Also, the overall weekend according to Comscore finaled at $54.7M, -46% from last weekend, and -60% from the same period a year ago (when Captain Marvel was roaring away). That revised number is down from where we saw the weekend box office on Sunday morning, which was at $55.3M. It’s now the lowest weekend at the box office in 20 years, the last low being the weekend of September 15-17, 2000 when all titles grossed $54.5M led by the Keanu Reeves crime pic The Watcher.

Among lows, the next weekend up from this past one is October 30-November 1, 1998, which totaled $55.2M when John Carpenter’s Vampires topped the charts.

Last B.O. Chart For A While? March 13-15

+ Monday & Tuesday B.O.
thumb rank pic dis last wkend scrs (cg) 3-day (%) mon (% chg vs. sun) tues (% chg. vs. mon) total wk
1 Onward Dis 4,310 $10.6M (-73%) $753K (-72%) $348K (-54%) $61.4M 2
2 I Still Believe LG 3,250 $9.1M $475K (-76%) $234K (-51%) $9.8M 1
3 Bloodshot Sony 2,861 $9.176M $552,6K (-74%) $191K (-65%) $9.9M 1
4 Invisible Man Uni/Blum 3,636 (+26) $5.89M (-61%) $410K (-73%) $140K (-66%) $64.8M 3
5 The Hunt Uni/Blum 3,028 $5.3M $357K (-71%) $116K (-68%) $5.8M 1
6 Sonic Par 3,041 (-676) $2.5M (-67%) $202K (-70%) $81,5K (-60%) $146M 5
7 Call of the Wild Dis/20th 3,201 (-713) $2.2M (-67%) $148,9K (-73%) $70K (-53%) $62.3M 4
8 the Way Back WB 2,718 $2.36M (-71%) $143,9K (-76%) $55K (-62%) $13.5M 2
9 Emma Focus 1,732 (+167) $1.3M (-73%) $88,6K (-70%) $33,5K (-62%) $10M 4
10 Bad Boys for Life Sony 1,451 (-708) $1.1M (-64%) $91K (-70%) $25K (-71%) $204.3M 9

Also as we brace for a possible twomonth shutdown of the domestic box office, here’s a look at where the majors are left standing for the period of January 1-March 15.

Sony is the current champ of 2020 off the carryover money from last year’s Oscar Best Picture nominee Little Women, Jumanji: The Next Level, and this year’s Bad Boys for Life. 

Disney is expected to add in 20th Century Studios’ ticket sales to their year-end sum, but we have them broken out separately below. Together, both studios currently total $383.4M, and would be ranked second beating Universal. Call of the Wild repped 20th Century Studios’ first release of the year, while Onward was Disney’s. The latter studio’s money includes carryover cash from 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Frozen 2, while Fox includes Searchlight money from Jojo Rabbit, plus the big label’s 2019 carryovers Ford v. Ferrari and Spies in Disguise. 

Eighty-four percent of Paramount’s $173.7M box office was fueled by Sonic the Hedgehog, while 95% of Warner Bros’ $139.6M came from Birds of Prey, Just Mercy and recently the Ben Affleck drama The Way Back. A bulk of Lionsgate’s money was banked from MRC’s Rian Johnson star ensemble Knives Out, while 98% of STX’s $50M is from this year’s Miramax release of The Gentlemen and Lakeshore horror pic Brahms: The Boy II. 


thumb studio b.o.  (1/1-3/15) no. titles % chg. vs. same period in 2019
Sony $462.95M 11 +136%
Universal $362.4M 15 -3%
Disney $232.7M 4 -32%
Paramount $173.7M 4 +45%
20th Century Studios $150.7M 11 +3%
Warner Bros. $139.6M 7 -58%
Lionsgate $75.9M 6 -31%
STX $50M 7 -58%
Other $161.05M
2020 Domestic B.O. $1.809B -9%

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