For movie theaters, the pandemic means the credits are rolling

The movie houses that remain open are seeing a huge drop in customers.


March 16, 2020

Many major cities across America have ordered movie theaters and other gathering places to shut down in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Meanwhile, any theaters that might remain open are seeing an enormous drop in customers. 

Domestic ticket sales totaled ~$55.3m this past weekend. That’s a 44% drop from the previous period, and the worst weekend at the box office in at least 2 decades. The top film was “Onward,” which brought in ~$10.5m in the US and Canada — a 73% decline from its first weekend.

Keep your distance at the box office

There are ~6k indoor movie theaters across the US, and it took awhile for big chains to start pulling the curtains on them.

For example: The Star Tribune reported Monday that some Minnesota outposts of AMC (one of the country’s 2 largest chains) were still open, but sharply cutting capacity and practicing social distancing. 

What does social distancing look like at the movies? Way more than keeping that giant bucket o’ to yourself. Some theaters were selling seats in every other row.

Monday evening, Regal, the country’s other major chain, announced it was closing all locations “until further notice,“ starting today.

Will moviegoers return for the sequel?

The crash is forcing theater owners to reckon with an existential threat posed by streaming services. Universal Pictures is breaking the mold by releasing movies to watch at home while they’re still in theaters

A more immediate problem: Even if a few theaters stay open, they may run out of new flicks. The release dates of several big pictures have been pushed back. One industry veteran told Deadline we may see a revival of Oscar-nominated films or classics from years past.

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