It will be many months before exhibitors might expect to see box-office returns that resemble the norms we once took for granted. In the meantime, a different metric has taken hold: Is there proof that domestic theaters are gaining traction against the audience’s pandemic resistance? Does it makes sense to go for broke with a high-end domestic release?
This weekend did not offer that evidence. The top 10 titles took in around $10 million, with somewhere under $12 million all told. This weekend saw perhaps 3 percent more theaters open over last weekend, which totaled a little over $11 million. All told, a little over 75 percent of all U.S. complexes are open; the total percentage for North America is a bit higher since nearly all Canadian theaters are now open.
There were four new entries, which included two reissues; they brought in less than $2 million. The overall take for the weekend is likely to be somewhere under $12 million, close to last weekend. A year ago, the same three days represented $95 million. Even if all theaters were operating, it’s hard to project even an $18 million estimate.
New York and Los Angeles locations might be edging closer to reopening, but with Disney moving “Death on the Nile” from October 23 to Christmas, and “Black Widow” to next year (along with “Deep Water,” their other early November entry), the question remains how can theaters manage to keep going through nearly two months until the releases of “No Time to Die” and “Soul”?
“Tenet,” which lost a handful of theaters for the first time, had a modest drop of 26 percent. Its domestic haul to date is $41.2 million, with a worldwide total of $283.2 million; foreign accounts for 85 percent of the return. The abnormally low domestic percentage reflects the greater impact of COVID-19 in the U.S. and, with that, the public’s far greater resistance in returning to theaters.
The ultimate estimate for “Tenet” now appears to be around $350 million; $400 million seems unlikely. Fortunately for Warner Bros., its theatrical release will allow for substantial future platforms; “Mulan,” with its Disney+ debut, does not have the same advantage.
Among new entries, 551 theaters were enough to propel “Break the Silence” to a #3 spot with a little over $1 million. BTS’s previous concert film, “Burn the Stage” in 2018, opened to $2.4 million in 627 theaters. The new film did about 50 percent less in its per-theater average. Under normal circumstances, we might expect to see a 25 percent drop in interest for the second installment. All things considered, this result is a fairly optimistic sign that for avid fans, going to theaters is still a viable option.
“The Empire Strikes Back” (#5) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (#10) (originally Fox titles, now Disney), and “Akira” (Funimation, #9), are reissues that broke into the top 10. “The New Mutants” and “Unhinged” again placed high (second and fourth). Each approaches $20 million, which is no small accomplishment. “Unhinged” dropped just 22 percent; it’s a nice start for what should be a good home-platform run. As an action film with a star (Russell Crowe), it’s the kind of offering that usually scores well as a VOD premiere.
The second weekend for the faith-based Christian-in-peril “Infidel” (American Cinema International) added 161 theaters to total nearly 1,900. It dropped 41 percent, grossing $880,000. Of note is, like four of the top six titles, it had a per-theater average around $400-$500. “Shortcut,” a horror film from direct-to-home player Gravitas Ventures, made the top 10 with $305,000 in 725 theaters and a PTA in the $400 range. The company hopes to position this as a longer-playing title to fill the Halloween gap.
The grimness of the specialized world is reinforced by the fate of two prime titles. Miranda July’s well-received “Kajillionaire” managed only $215,000 in 529 theaters. It faced a limited choice of theaters given Focus’ PVOD plans in four weeks. Consider this further evidence that no matter how much top chains want to get back in business with quality titles, they want their 90-day windows more.
Sony released the Sundance-premiered “The Last Shift” with Richard Jenkins. This With all top companies playing, it managed only $235,000 in 871 theaters.
No other title grossed as much as $200,000, with “Kajillionaire” and “The Last Shift” falling just under the Top Ten. Unreported was the first weekend of Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix). It opened in at least eight theaters in five markets, led by Chicago, suburban Washington, Boston, and Phoenix. Spot-checking websites for theaters that had advance sales showed only a handful of tickets sold for main Saturday evening shows. More theaters will be added this Friday, ahead of its October 16 streaming start.
The Top 10
1. Tenet (Warner Bros.) – Week; Last weekend #1 2930
$3,400,000 (-26%) in 2,850 theaters (-70); PTA: $1,193; Cumulative: $41,000,000
2. The New Mutants (Disney) – Week 5; Last weekend #2
$1,100,000 (-31%) in 2,305 theaters (-203); PTA: $477; Cumulative: $19,400,000
3. Break the Silence: The Movie (Trafalagar) NEW
$(est.) 1,010,000 in 551 theaters; PTA: $1,815; Cumulative: $(est.) 1,000,000
4. Unhinged (Solstice) – Week 7; Last weekend #4
$1,002,000 (-22%) in 2,182 theaters (-142); PTA: $459; Cumulative: $17,100,000
5. The Empire Strikes Back (Disney) (reissue)
$908,000 in 2,097 theaters; PTA: $433; Cumulative: $(adjusted) 921,000,000
6. Infidel (American Cinema International) – Week 2; Last weekend #3
$(est.) 880,000 (-41%) in 1,885 theaters (+161); PTA: $ 467; Cumulative: $(est.) 2,810,000
7. The Broken Hearts Gallery (Sony) – Week 3; Last weekend #5
$470,000 (-41%) in 2,141 theaters (-80); PTA: $; Cumulative: $3,238,000
8. Shortcut (Gravitas Ventures) NEW
$305,000 in 725 theaters; PTA: $421; Cumulative: $305,000
9. Akira (Funimation) (reissue)
$(est.) 270,000 in 445 theaters; PTA: $; Cumulative: $
10. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (45th anniversary)
$250,000 in 70 theaters; PTA: $3,571; Cumulative: $(adjusted) 517,000,000