SUNDAY AM FINAL w/chart: The depressed state of the box office continued into its fourth weekend since the big three exhibitors reopened, with Warner Bros.’ Tenet still No. 1 with $3.4M, -26%. To date, the Christopher Nolan-directed time-twisting noir has collected $41.2M at 2,850 locations in a domestic market that’s 75% opened with an overall WW box office of $283.2M.
Some can debate whether theaters were better off closed, like they were this past summer, or open, but any pulse of business, even on a weekend like this, is progress. And that’s where where we need to remain positive.
Exhibition and distribution insiders tell me that Los Angeles, and New York (believe it or not) could turn a corner in the next couple of weeks, but even then it’s baby steps. It’s not like the floodgates will just open. The biggest problem: With the lack of a tentpole supply of product on the marquee, most moviegoers aren’t even aware that their local movie theater is open (per NRG only 45% of potential moviegoers are aware), or that movies are out there (are they even being advertised on TV now??). And even if potential moviegoers are aware, they’re not ready to head back during the pandemic. There’s been a lot of mixed messages sent out about the pandemic here in the U.S. — whether to wear masks, whether it’s safe to reopen schools, etc.– and it’s a very different approach from the centralized messages that have been communicated to populations in offshore markets. That disparity is clearly reflected at the box office; it’s why international is overpowering domestic results, Tenet being an example of that with 85% of its global take coming from international with $242M.
Fewer big pics means that some mid-sized circuits and independents are staying closed. One distributor recently received a phone call from four Alamo franchises at the last minute on Thursday saying they weren’t playing the distrib’s movie. Huh? Turns out those cinemas decided to stay closed. It just wasn’t worth the money. There are some Bow Tie Cinemas in Connecticut, even with Tenet in the marketplace, that aren’t even open. Some movie theaters have already switched to evening and weekend hours only. In Massachusetts, movie theaters can’t even sell concessions! That’s the crazy, awful stuff that’s truly ruining the theatrical business right now.
Yes, there are indie movies being supplied to cinemas like Focus Features’ Sundance acquisition of Miranda July’s Kajillionaire ($215K 3-day at 529 theaters for a per screen of $406, 88% certified fresh Rotten Tomatoes) and Sony’s pick-up at the same festival, the Richard Jenkins comedy The Last Shift ($235K for the weekend at 871 venues for a per screen of $270, 63% fresh on RT), but the marketplace needs big movies being advertised coast to coast at big P&A budgets. Studios aren’t ready to commit to those types of investments right now. Also, if you notice with the independent movies, they’re making the same amount of money they typically would in a handful of NY and LA theaters, but it’s with a much wider theatrical footprint to pull off those numbers.
All hope rests on MGM/United Artists Releasing’s No Time to Die, and even Disney/Pixar’s Soul, set to debut over the Thanksgiving break. Some mid-sized and smaller exhibitors are refusing to open until that point in time. Here in Los Angeles, Arclight Cinemas doesn’t plan to reopen immediately once getting the greenlight from LA; they’ll wait until there’s bigger fare to play in order to make money. Whether the 007 movie sticks to its release date hinges on lower COVID cases abroad. As of right now, Bond isn’t budging.
Some good news from this past weekend: Regal reopened 11 theaters this past week in California counties Riverside, San Luis Obispo and Solano, the latter being the closest to San Francisco. San Mateo and Marin counties also reopened including seven Cinemark sites in the Bay area. The chain also has two reopened in Palm Springs, CA and the Cinemark Egyptian in Hanover, MD. Overall, 76% of Cinemark’s 332 chain is open for business. Still, 78% of California remains closed in 25 counties including Los Angeles.
San Francisco and its neighboring counties like Alameda, while cleared to open by the state of California, are still closed due to their counties’ health divisions. There’s an optimism among exhibitors and distributors that those markets will reopen soon.
When it comes to New York, sources tell me that exhibition is in “the best position they’ve ever been” as far as talks go with the state’s health officials. I hear NY state health officials toured a Bowtie Cinema in Schenectady, NY two weeks ago, and were impressed with the safety protocols but are mandating MERV-11 HVAC filters (but will take MERV-13). But again, nothing definitive yet as to when New York reopens.
Freeman Klopott, Press Officer for the New York State Division of the Budget, recently gave Deadline’s Jill Goldsmith the most updated official word, “New York State has been following the data and latest science on the virus to re-open the economy safely and we are doing the same when it comes to movie theaters. Movie theaters remain closed, along with similar activities around the state, as they present the challenge of customers sitting for long periods in an enclosed space with the potential for activities such as eating and drinking that require a mask to be removed. We’ve already seen movies theaters in other states re-open and then close. In New York, we will continue to track the data and the science, and we will make a decision on re-opening them here when health experts determine it is safe to do so.”
Still, even when New York cinemas reopen, some distributors worry about who will head out. It’s not like Los Angeles when it comes to commuting. Who will take public transportation during the pandemic to the movies? And, with the Sunshine Cinemas and Landmark’s 57th casualties of the pandemic recession, there’s a decreasing footprint for independents. Remember, the big circuits aren’t going to book indies, and the big circuits won’t play any titles with a shrunken window or are theatrical/PVOD day-and-date (the exception being AMC allowing Universal and Focus titles).
Despite the desert that exhibition is weathering right now until Thanksgiving, we shouldn’t write the obituary on moviegoing. We’re in a pandemic, and the Wall Street analysts just like to play the short side of a distressed asset or trumpet wherever the money is flowing from (Wow! Look at Disney with Mulan on Disney+…still no word on how poorly or well it did). To say that moviegoing is completely dead is to say that Broadway, concert-going, eating out at restaurants is also dead. That’s ridiculous. We’re in a pandemic after all, and when the world opens up, it truly will be the roaring ’20s. Some estimate we won’t see normal, blockbuster levels until next summer, but in the meantime, it’s just going to take a lot of patience while the industry wades through this.
Dissecting Tenet, similar to last weekend, just because Los Angeles is closed, doesn’t mean the movie capital will stay down. Outlying reopened Orange County, which is part of the Los Angeles DMA, in weekend 2 provided continued electricity for the Nolan movie remaining the top market followed by Dallas, San Francisco DMA, Salt Lake City, Toronto, Phoenix, Chicago, Washington DC, Houston and Atlanta.
Top theaters for Tenet were 1. Paramount Drive-In (LA DMA), 2. Capitol 6 Drive-In (San Francisco DMA), 3. Solano Twin Drive-In (San Fran DMA), 4. Regal Irvine Spectrum IMAX (LA/Orange County DMA) 5. AMC Block Orange with IMAX (LA/OC DMA), 6. Cinemark Redwood 20 (SF DMA), 7. Stardust Drive-In (Toronto), 8. Alamo Drafthouse Ashburn VA (Washington DC DMA), 9. Cinemark Huntington Beach Bella Terra (LA/ OC DMA ), 10. Sacramento Drive-In (Sacramento). Imax contributed $355K to Tenet this past weekend, a drop of only 25% from last weekend with the large format exhibitor’s running cume being $5.1M, 12.4% of domestic.
Other notes on limited fare:
Trafalgar had the fourth movie about KPOP band BTS Break the Silence at 515 theaters in 146 markets with core runs in New York (New Jersey that is), Orange County, Chicago, Dallas, Napa, Houston, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio and Las Vegas. Friday was estimated at $285K, with Saturday around $440K. Weekend is estimated at $980K.
Gravitas Ventures, which usually releases movies via PVOD or theatrical/PVOD day-and-date had their widest theatrical release ever this weekend (and biggest B.O. opening ever) with the horror movie Shortcut at 725 theaters which nabbed $305K. Pic, directed by Alessio Liguori, centers around a mysterious creature that terrorizes five teenage friends after their bus takes a shortcut on a desolate road in the wild. The pic stars Jack Kane, Zak Sutcliffe, Andrei Claude, Sophie Jane Oliver, Terence Anderson and has a 90-day theatrical window.
FuniMation had Akira 4K at 445 locations in 142 markets. Top markets were Orange County, Houston, Orlando, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. Friday was notable at $180K, but Saturday dropped to $70K. $270K estimated for the weekend.
I hear Netflix’s Aaron Sorkin movie Trial of the Chicago 7 opened in around 100 theaters. Netflix doesn’t report box office, but word from theater owners is that the movie was averaging ten people a show, which isn’t good. The feature, in advance of hitting the streamer, has a 21-day window.
Sony and Warner Bros. continue to shield their numbers in Comscore, which means that exhibitors and rival distributors can’t drill down and see what either studio’s movies are doing. An exhibitor can see in Comscore what its theaters are making, but not a rival exhibitor’s.
The weekend’s top 10 is as follows
- Tenet (WB) 2,850 theaters (-80), 3-day $3.4M (-26%)/Total: $41.2M/Wk 4
- The New Mutants (20th/Dis) 2,305 theaters (-213), 3-day $1.1M (-31%)/Total: $19.4M/Wk 5
- Unhinged (Sols) 2,182 (-142) 3-day $1M (-29%)/Total $17.1M/Wk 7
- Break the Silence (Trafal), 515 theaters, 3-day $980K estimate/Wk 1.
- Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back (’97 version, Dis/20th) 3-day: $908K, running total: $292.6M/Wk 1,232
- Infidel (Cloudburst) 1,885 (+161) screens 3-day $745K (-50%)/Total $2.67M: Wk 2
- Broken Hearts Gallery (Sony) 2,141 (-80) 3-day $470K (-41%)/Total $3.2M/Wk 3
- Shortcut (Gravitas) 725 theaters, 3-day $305K/Wk 1
- Akira 4K (Fun) 445 theaters, 3-day $270K/Wk 1
- The Last Shift (Sony) 871 theaters, 3-day: $235K/Wk 1
- Kajillionaire (Foc) 529 theaters, 3-day $215K/Wk 1