November 22, 2020

Box Office Sinks to New Low as 600 Theaters Close and Few New Films Open

The weekend before Thanksgiving is one of the most desired release dates.  It’s been home to entries in the Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games franchises; in 2019, “Frozen II” opened to $130 million. This year, weekend grosses won’t pass $7 million and only “Freaky” made more than $1 million.

These numbers cap a week of bad-to-worse news for theaters. Announcements from Universal codifed its Premium VOD plans, which suggest that the new maximum window, likely adapted by other distributors, is five weekends after opening. Warner Bros. placed “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBO Max for 30 days, along with theaters that want to play it. (The logic behind the 30-day rule is murky; perhaps the hope is by the end of January, more theaters will be open?)

With elevated government restrictions and COVID-19 cases that seem to hit new highs on a daily basis, 2,800 theaters were open this weekend. That’s down from 3,400 last weekend, and about half of the possible locations.

The average gross per complex, with 60 percent of these having eight or more screens, was around $4,000 or $500 per screen. That can’t even cover operating costs, especially with half of the revenue going to film rental.

“Croods: A New Age” (Universal) opens this Wednesday for the long holiday weekend. Alone, it should gross more than this weekend’s total. That will be the last major new release until “Wonder Woman 1984” Christmas Day, which it will share with “News of the World” from Universal, “Promising Young Woman” from Focus Features, and Sony’s “Monster Hunter.”

Theater closings took their toll on holdovers. After weeks of seeing many films hold well in the absence of competition, all dropped by at least 40 percent and some more than 50 percent. “Freaky,” which is #1 for a second weekend, dropped 56 percent.

One film that continues to show (relative) strength is “The War with Grandpa” (101). The comedy actually jumped a slot to#2 this weekend, with only a 45 percent fall. At over $16 million, it is the top gross among all releases that dared to open since “Tenet.”

Several films took advantage of the opportunity for easy access to big-circuit theaters, but the results were negligible. “Vanguard” (Gravitas Ventures), with Jackie Chan reuniting with director Stanley Tong, placed seventh, but with only $291 per theater. “The Last Vermeer” (Sony), originally a Sony Pictures Classics release when it premiered at the 2019 Telluride and Toronto festivals, landed at #9, $247 per theater. “Fate: Stay/Night: Heaven,” a Fathom presentation of a Japanese animated film, had rare access to multiple days and screenings. It took #10 with a somewhat better but still weak result ($647 PTA).


(from left) The Butcher (Vince Vaughn) and Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton) in "Freaky," co-written and directed by Christopher Landon.


Photo Credit: Brian Douglas/Univ

The Top Ten

1. Freaky (Universal) Week 2; Last weekend: #1

$1,220,000 (-56%) in 2,057 theaters (-415); PTA (per theater average): $593; Cumulative: $3,652,000

2. The War With Grandpa (101) Week 7; Last weekend: #3

$733,067 (-45%) in 1,688 theaters (-457); PTA: $434; Cumulative: $16,183,000

3. Let Him Go (Focus) Week 3; Last weekend: #2

$710,000 (-59%) in 1,907 theaters (-549); PTA: $372; Cumulative: $7,929,000

4. Come Play (Focus) Week 4; Last weekend: #4

$550,000 (-52%) in 1,364 theaters (-602); PTA: $403; Cumulative: $8,014,000

5. The Santa Clause (Disney) REISSUE

$(adj.) 461,000 in 1,581 theaters; PTA: $292; Cumulative: $(adj.) 323,800,000

6. Honest Thief (Open Road) Week 7; Last weekend: #5

$452,000 (-42%) in 1,254 theaters (-589); PTA: $360; Cumulative: $13,011,000

7. Vanguard (Gravitas Ventures) NEW

$400,000 in 1,376 theaters; PTA: $291; Cumulative: $400,000

8. Tenet (Warner Bros.) Week 13; Last weekend: #6    1223

$360,000 (-52%) in 864 theaters (-359); PTA: $417; Cumulative: $56,900,000

9. The Last Vermeer (Sony) NEW

$225,000 in 912 theaters; PTA: $247; Cumulative: $225,000

10. Fate/Stay Night: Heaven (Fathom) NEW

$(est.) 220,000 in 324 theaters; PTA: $679; Cumulative: $220,000


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Source: IndieWire film