It didn’t take long for history to repeat itself.
We’re not just talking about the second-weekend No. 1 hold for a Liam Neeson Open Road release during the pandemic — specifically The Marksman, which earned $2.03M, -35% for a running total of $6.09M. But also how the major studios ran for the hills again, just like they did after the release of Tenet, pushing their Q1 titles after seeing the blue Christmas results of Wonder Woman 1984 and News of the World.
As we told you, this was to be expected in Q1, given how the virus is lingering despite the deployment of the vaccines. There’s an interesting article in this morning’s New York Times about how many more infections we’re bound to get, even with the vaccines, should the country decide to relax restrictions. Already with the vaccines, scientists at Columbia University estimate that we’re on track for 158M total infections if the current restrictions we have in the U.S. stay in place until late July. This could mean we go through yet another cycle of release-date changes and push theatrical further into the fall. We’ll see.
Right now, about 56.5% of the 5,900 theaters in the U.S. and Canada are open, with Illinois — including Chicago — expected to reopen next weekend with 40%-50% auditorium capacity in time for the Warner Bros/HBO Max release of The Little Things.
After Universal, Sony, Disney, MGM made major changes for Q1, with the latter’s highly coveted theatrical James Bond film No Time to Die heading to the second weekend of October, the hopeful eye on the prize to bring theatrical back is Disney/Marvel’s Black Widow on May 7. But will Disney give in to a theatrical/premium Disney+ release for the MCU movie or move it to Disney+, given how devoted the studio is to the streaming platform in the wake of The Mandalorian and WandaVision‘s release? Or can it be patient and foster the feature’s potential billion-global theatrical gross? And will we be OK by then? Unfortunately not, according to this NY Times article. Warner Bros. execs aren’t looking like crazy people with their 2021 HBO Max-theatrical release strategy — at least for the near future of the pandemic; let’s see what happens when the world reopens). WarnerMedia did consult with epidemiologists or other experts before making its big swing with the 2021 day-and-date theatrical HBO Max release plan. Those consultants kept telling the studio that it would take a while for vaccines to take effect and further delays would be imminent.
Note it’s not like the other major studios have lost faith in theatrical in the long run: They’ve delayed releases, and they want exhibition reopened again at full capacity. They want the revenue stream back. But this whole short-term plan of selling off fare or sending it to PVOD might continue for a few more months.
As the smoke clears from last week’s moves — which occurred after Joe Biden was sworn in president — we’ve outlined further down how the first half of the year looks for the theatrical calendar. Universal and Warners will deliver the bulk of the product, with many weekends open in between titles, creating opportunities for indie distributors to step in.
Neeson’s previous pandemic October theatrical release from Open Road, Honest Thief, was a bit ahead of The Marksman in Weekend 2, earning $2.3M with a $7.4M running total. But that’s because the movie had access to more screens at the time — 2,502, versus the 2,018 bookings that Marksman has here. Top markets in Weekend 2 were Dallas-Fort Worth, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Houston. The pic’s top gross in the country came from the Cinemark Pharr Town Center in Pharr, TX, near the Mexican border.
In the meantime, Universal’s The Croods: A New Age remains in theaters in 1,876 theaters, +21, in weekend No. 9 since its Thanksgiving release making $1.82M, -9%, while also being available on PVOD for a running total of $41.8M. Again, a bittersweet result, as we told you last week: You’d never see these types of weekend numbers and holds for a DreamWorks Animation title of late in Weekend 9 (How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World grossed $817K in Weekend 9 at 822 sites). However, at the same these movies aren’t making the major money that they typically do in a normal marketplace (Hidden World posted a first weekend of $55M domestic — far more than the entire stateside run here of Croods 2).
Warner Bros’ Wonder Woman 1984‘s fifth weekend made $1.6M, for a running total of $37.7M domestic, $148M WW. Today is the last day the movie will be on HBO Max for a while, with exhibition getting an additional 31-day exclusive run of the picture before it goes into a normal windowing home entertainment ancillary period.
There was a new release, but not a wide one, in the top 10 this weekend: Gravitas Ventures’ Dakota Johnson-Casey Affleck-Jason Segel drama Our Friend, which was a day-and-date theatrical PVOD release, made $250K at 543 sites for a $460 average. I hear that close to half of the pic’s bookings were under $100 on Friday, which unfortunately is not good and simply indicative of the current marketplace. Whether the movie breaks even depends on its PVOD dollars as theatrical isn’t an indicator here of the pic’s financial end game.
The Gabriela Cowperthwaite-directed movie made its global premiere at 2019 TIFF and follows a couple who, after receiving life-altering news, find unexpected support from their best friend, who puts his own life on hold and moves into their family home, bringing an impact much greater and more profound than anyone could have imagined.
Exhibition relations firm PaperAirplane was part of the marketing plan for Our Friend in getting movie theaters to target moviegoers with custom assets and messaging toward the pic’s 25-54 demographic. There was a network ad spot push on channels such as Bravo, DIY, E!, Lifetime, Paramount Network, CMT, Hulu, Roku and Vizio among others. Talent made appearances on Good Morning America, The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Entertainment Tonight.
Top 10 chart:
1.) The Marksman (Open) 2,018 theaters (+43)/3-day: $2.03M (-35%)/Total: $6.09M/Wk 2
2.) Croods: A New Age (Uni) 1,876 theaters (+21), 3-day: $1.82M (-9%)/Total: $41.8M/Wk 9
3.) Wonder Woman 1984 (WB) 2,013 theaters (-87)/$1.6M (-38%)/Total: $37.7M/Wk 5
4.) Monster Hunter (Sony) 1,661 theaters (-33) 3-day: $820K (-25%)/Total $10.1M/Wk 6
5.) News of the World (Uni) 1,874 theaters (-79), 3-day: $810 (-19%)/Total: $9.6M/Wk 5
6.) Fatale (Lionsgate) 1,130 theaters (-45), 3-day: $415K (-12%)/Total: $5.2M/Wk 6
7.) Promising Young Woman (Focus) 1,236 theaters (-97), 3-day: $400K (-10%)/ Total: $3.97M/Wk 5
8.) Our Friend (Gravitas) 543 theaters/3-day: $250K/Wk 1
9.) The War With Grandpa (101) 507 theaters (+85), 3-day: $164K (+1%)/Total: $19.4M/Wk 16
10.) Pinocchio (RSA) 602 screens (-58) 3-day $122,6K (-22%)/Total: $1.5M/Wk 5
A look at the 2021 theatrical release calendar through the first weekend of summer:
The Little Things (Warner/HBO Max)
No wide releases
Judas and the Black Messiah (Warner/HBO Max)
Land (Focus Features)
The Mauritanian (STX)
Nomadland (Searchlight) – limited
Tom & Jerry (Warner/HBO Max)
Chaos Walking (Lionsgate)
Raya and the Last Dragon (Disney)
No wide releases
The Courier (RSA)
Godzilla vs. Kong (Warner/Legendary/HBO Max)
No wide releases
Mortal Kombat (New Line/HBO Max)
No wide releases
No wide releases
Black Widow (Disney/Marvel)