Coronavirus contributes to 60 per cent drop in weekend box-office in US, Canada

Bloomberg | Updated on March 17, 2020 Published on March 17, 2020

A theatre displays a closed sign in Los Angeles, California on Monday, with the coronavirus outbreak affecting countries across the globe. - REUTERS   -  REUTERS

With major theatre chains voluntarily limiting ticket sales or closing because of the coronavirus outbreak, no one was expecting a big weekend for movies. And they got what they expected -- with revenue plunging to two-decade lows.

Theatres in the US and Canada brought in just under $50 million over the weekend, researcher Comscore Inc. said on Monday. That is a 61 per cent decline from a year earlier and the smallest weekend tally since at least 1998.

Some exhibitors, including AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., were limiting ticket sales in some auditoriums to create more space between patrons and reduce the risk of infection. They were also cleaning theatres more frequently. Late Monday Regal Entertainment said it would close its US theatres all together due to the crisis.

Public officials in California and other states have banned gatherings of 250 or more people to contain the coronavirus. That has shut down sports arenas and forced theatres in some cities to limit sales in their biggest auditoriums. With fears of the virus gripping the public, it was unclear whether they could sell the seats they have.

That could be an easy site in which to get infected, Robert Lahita, chairman of medicine at St. Joseph University Hospital in New Jersey, said before the weekend. The cloth seats are tough to decontaminate, and people go into the theatres with coughs and sneezing.

Onward, from Walt Disney Co’s Pixar, held the No. 1 spot for a second weekend, Comscore said. It brought in revenue of $10.6 million in the US and Canada -- less than half of the $26 million that Box Office Pro had predicted. Onward faced little competition in the family-film arena but it has trailed other Pixar hits.

Major studios have begun delaying the release of major pictures because of the virus and it is expected to impact on theatre attendance. A new James Bond film set for April 10, for instance, has been pushed back.

Among new films, Sony Corp released Bloodshot, a sci-fi drama starring Vin Diesel, which brought in $9.18 million to place second. I Still Believe, from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., follows the life of Christian music star Jeremy Camp. It opened in third place with sales of $9.1 million.

The Hunt, a controversial film from Comcast Corp’s Universal Pictures, opened in fifth place with $5.3 million, after a seven-month delay. Universal cancelled the release in August after its liberals-hunting-conservatives storyline triggered an outcry. Box Office Pro was forecasting $8.4 million for the weekend.

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Published on March 17, 2020
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