Well, we’re not in worst case scenario mode yet, but it’s pretty close.
By Tim Briody
March 15, 2020
Despite Onward’s disappointing opening, there was still hope for March as we had both A Quiet Place Part II and Mulan coming at the end of the month. Since last weekend, there have been…some changes to the release schedule, with nearly every notable film pushing back its release to either later in the year (No Time to Die, the latest James Bond film, from April 10th to November), next year (Fast 9, now releasing April 2, 2021) or an indeterminate time (Mulan and A Quiet Place Part II haven’t announced yet as of this writing). A Trolls sequel slated for April 10th has yet to budge, but they might not have a choice soon.
With COVID-19 now officially a pandemic, officials are urging social distancing, meaning stay the hell away from other people. This is historically shown to work, if people actually listen to it. Google the phrase “flatten the curve” if you don’t understand.
This weekend’s new releases went off as scheduled, but none of them were going to be world beaters, and along with people making the (correct) choice to stay home, the box office isn’t pretty. I usually do my bit about The Void when we hit the weekend after Thanksgiving, but we’re about to see what it’s like when it happens in the middle of the year.
Onward does win a second weekend, but drops 73% to $10.5 million. It’s got $60.2 million in the bank after two weekends. When last weekend’s actuals came in, Onward officially had the smallest opening weekend of any modern Pixar release (we’re not counting Toy Story or A Bug’s Life), and now it’s almost assuredly the first Pixar movie to earn less than $100 million. The decline is a trend among every hold over in the top ten, as theaters limit audience size and an enclosed theater just isn’t the best place to be right now. Where exactly Onward finishes isn’t clear, but maybe even as low as $80 million is possible right now. It’s not going to be a fun time to be in the movie theater business right now.
Finishing in second is our first opener, I Still Believe. Earning an okay $9.5 million, I’d make an argument that the faith based entry was the film least affected by COVID-19 among the top ten, but because it’s political in nature I won’t make it here. Still, it had a bit of a pedigree, coming from the makers of 2018’s surprise hit I Can Only Imagine ($83.4 million on a $7 million budget!), and focuses on the memoir of popular contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Jeremy Camp and the meeting of his first wife, who died just a few months after their marriage. I Still Believe cost only $14 million to make and despite the uncertainty right now, stands to make at least $20 million in its theatrical run.
Bloodshot was ostensibly the highest profile new release of the weekend, but that wasn’t saying a lot. Based on a comic (but not from Marvel or DC), it’s an action movie starring Vin Diesel, and it lands with a thud, taking $9.3 million for the weekend. A D-list comic character nobody was really familiar with, Bloodshot was likely doomed from the start, and the COVID-19 pandemic did not help, plus with a critical savaging (31% Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes), it was an easy choice to stay home. This cost $45 million to make, and won’t even hit $20 million domestically.
The Invisible Man takes fourth with $6 million and $64.4 million after three weekends. With a 60% decline from last weekend, it’s the lowest drop among films in the top ten and I wish I was making that up. With 2020’s box office headed towards an all time disaster, this is one of the bright spots, having cost just $7 million.
The long delayed The Hunt picked a terrible time to finally release, as it earned just $5.3 million. A thriller with a political slant (the working title was allegedly Red State vs. Blue State), it was slated for release in the fall of 2019 before moving back in the wake of some mass shootings. Also a Blumhouse production (surprisingly), it appears the same magic doesn’t work when the movie isn’t cheap, disposable horror, having cost $14 million to produce, plus I’m sure slightly more than average in advertising costs given the release date move and redone marketing campaign (“the most talked about movie of the year that no one’s actually seen” is a pretty good tagline, I do have to admit.).
The rest of the ugliness will be covered with a lightning round: Sonic the Hedgehog adds $2.5 million (down 67%) in its fifth weekend and has $145.8 million to date. The Way Back drops 70% from opening weekend to $2.4 million and $13.4 million after two weeks. The Call of the Wild takes $2.2 million (down 67%) and $62.1 million in four weekends, still about $100 million off its budget. Emma adds $1.3 million and has $10 million after two weekends in wide release, and suddenly the film that’s going to have at least two more months as 2020’s #1 movie, Bad Boys For Life earns $1.1 and has $204.2 million in nine weekends.
So. This weekend’s top 12 films earned $51.2 million. This is unprecedented, and according to our friends at ERC, it’s the worst weekend of box office in over 20 years, going all the way back to a weekend in September 1998. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Nobody else wanted to compete with Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II next weekend and Disney’s Mulan the weekend after, so what we have is no new wide releases for at least the next three weekends. A few theaters across the country closed entirely this weekend and after this weekend, I expect that to skyrocket this coming week. And honestly, they should all close. With no idea exactly how many people are carrying COVID-19, and younger people who show no symptoms yet still potentially carrying the virus, it’s foolish for any of them to remain open. If there’s box office to report next week, we’ll be here, but until then I only have two words: Stay. Home.