Similar to most things, the box office has taken a massively different meaning in the last few weeks due to the coronavirus. A few weeks ago, various theater chains (AMC and Regal particularly) started to change the way they were allowing people inside. The original change took place on March 13th 2020. The new rule was that AMC and Regal theaters would start to cap the amount of people inside of each theater at half. Which, in my opinion, was a nonanswer. Most people stopped attending theaters by the time this change was implemented, so it was the company’s way of making it look like they were trying to help the situation without actually losing anymore of their profits. A few days later on March 16th, 2020, Regal Cinemas closed down their locations until further notice. This prompted AMC Theaters to close down their own locations the very next day on March 17th 2020. Thus leaving most theaters across North America closed. (Aside from Drive In Theaters, due to the nature of them having audiences more spread out than typical theaters.) The box office, which already was upwards of 80% down from the previous week, took a massive nosedive once this happened. Disney decided to even stop reporting their numbers altogether. Which, in my opinion, is disappointing because even though they might be embarrassed right now, in the future when this event is a page in history books, it would be interesting to look back on to see the few months where the movie industry was… gone. The week before these changes were implemented, on Wednesday March 10th, 2020, the top three films at the box office were Onward, The Invisible Man, and The Way Back, with $4M, $2M, and $1M respectively. These numbers already are not great in terms of the box office, but for this time of year lower numbers aren’t unexpected. However a week later on March 17th, 2020, the results were truly staggering. Onward was still number one, but the other two films were newcomers, with I Still Believe and Bloodshot joining theaters. The numbers went from millions to $346K, $235K, and $221K for an entire day around the entire country. This was roughly a 90% drop for Onward and incredibly low numbers for an opening week for I Still Believe and Bloodshot. March 18th was even worse, with all three of these films dropping in the low 80% for $61K, $38K, and $36K respectively. Then the next day they all dropped around at least 33%. Unfortunately for people who enjoy box office analysis, lots of places decided to stop reporting their box office numbers for the time being. However, with most theaters around the country shut down, most studios would have no numbers to report.
This has led to various studios releasing their films earlier on digital release. Typically movies would be in theaters for months and then brought to digital, Blu-Ray and DVD, and streaming. However, the wait times for movies releasing on digital platforms and streaming is getting shorter and shorter. Disney released Onward digitally starting on March 20th, and then stated that it will be watchable on their streaming service on April 3rd. This isn’t even a month since the movie had its wide release. Universal on March 16th revealed that they will be releasing Trolls World Tour on digital the same day as it releases in theaters. It will air on April 10th in any theaters still open, which is decreasing every day, as well as be available on digital services. Not only will this impact the rest of the year’s movie releases as more and more films get delayed each day, but it also puts any movies in production in delays as well. With another 35 and counting movies in production being suspended or delayed. All of these films would release within the next couple of years. Now that movies from this year are being pushed to next year, instead of having a few months where bunches of movies release around the same time, there will just be an empty portion of 2020 where no movies were released. How will this impact theaters in the near future when they open back up? (If they can open back up! Smaller mom and pop theaters have already needed to be shut down permanently.) Is this the beginning of a more digital and streaming based box office business? Only time will tell.