Box Office Enjoys Biggest Weekend Since Pandemic Shut Down Theaters

NYC Theatres reopen after Coronavirus lockdown measures in NYC.
Photographed By Masato Onoda

AMC Lincoln Square on March 5, 2021

Box office revenue for the March 5-7 weekend is an estimated $25 million, with cinemas in New York City now allowed to reopen at 25 percent capacity.

Over the March 6-8 weekend in 2020, movie ticket sales in North America totaled a combined $101.2 million before beginning their precipitous — and unprecedented decline — due the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Revenue fell to $54.8 million the following weekend, according to Comscore. By March 20, almost every cinema had closed up shop except for drive-ins. That weekend, ticket sales plummeted to $195,952, prompting a collective sigh of grief across Hollywood and the exhibition industry. In the time since, it has been a roller-coaster ride; some theaters reopened, while some of those had to close again.

Nearly a year later, there's at last hope of a recovery. On March 5, cinemas in New York City — the No. 2 moviegoing market in the country behind Los Angeles, where theaters are expected to flip on the lights in the next few weeks — were finally allowed to reopen, albeit at 25 percent capacity or 50 people.

But it succeeded in pushing needle. Box office revenue for the March 5-7 weekend is an estimated $25 million — the best showing since the pandemic forced theater closures, and narrowly besting the $23.8 million earned over Christmas weekend when Wonder Woman 1984 launched in those cinemas that had been allowed to reopen, according to Comscore estimates.

"Perhaps this could be interpreted as a turning point for the industry and a most welcome sign of the big screen recovery in-progress," says Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

"Fortunately movies this weekend drove solid overall numbers with Raya and the Last Dragon, Chaos Walking and Boogie, along with holdovers, bringing in a collectively impressive box office total of over $25 million," he continues. "This is arguably the first 'normal' weekend since the start of the pandemic, benefiting from a combination of an appealing big screen lineup that drove a strong frame despite only 45 percent of theaters currently open in North America."

The previous weekend, only 42 percent of cinemas were open. In addition to New York City, theaters in San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area were able to reopen on March 5.

"It's going to be slow and steady," says Jeff Goldstein, domestic distribution president at Warner Bros.