Things just went from bad to much worse for movie theaters and the box office. The industry has been struggling since March when theaters shut down all around the country. Things improved, albeit marginally, when theaters reopened in August. But now, in the blink of an eye, more than 600 theaters have closed again in the U.S, signaling yet another grim downturn for the movie business.
646 movie theaters closed their doors again temporarily in the U.S. ahead of the most recent weekend at the box office. Another 60 theaters in Canada closed, meaning that over 700 theaters across North America have closed in a matter of days. The weekend's top-performing movie was Blumhouse's body-swap thriller Freaky, which earned just $1.2 million. That makes it one of the lowest-grossing titles ever to top the box office. It is unlikely that the weekend would have been a rousing success even with these theaters in play but that certainly didn't help matters. Either way, it helps to illustrate just how dire the situation has become. And there is little reason to think things will get better anytime soon.
The closures come as health and safety concerns in the U.S., and throughout much of the world, have been reignited. Theaters have already closed again in the U.K., Germany, Italy, France and Poland. There are few bright spots, financially speaking, across the globe right now. China and Japan have both proved to be fertile ground at the box office. Though many of the movies raking in the dough in those countries are not big Hollywood titles. And for big movies to succeed, studios need many moviegoing markets functioning at a high level. That is now further away than it has been in months.
In contrast, the pre-Thanksgiving weekend in 2019 was a monster at the box office. Led by Disney's Frozen 2, which took in more than $130 million in its opening, North America saw ticket sales eclipse $206 million. This year, it will be less than $5 million when all's said and done. As such, it is not surprising that most major movies have been pushed to 2021 or beyond, with studios hoping that things will stabilize enough in the coming months. But theaters are going to have trouble surviving in the short-term, with AMC on the verge of bankruptcy. Movie theaters are likely going to need a financial lifeline if they are expected to survive. That is in the hands of the government at the moment, and theaters are undoubtedly low on the priority list right now.
In the meantime, Warner Bros. recently revealed that Wonder Woman 1984 will debut on HBO Max as well as in theaters on December 25. But with a streaming release, the box office will likely be minimal. With that, virtually the only other major release still on deck for the rest of the year is The Croods: A New Age, which arrives this week. This news was previously reported by The Hollywood Reporter.