Box Office: Moviegoing Slows Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Graham Bartholomew/Sony Pictures; Michael Kubeisy/Lionsgate; Patti Perret/Universal Pictures
'The Hunt,' 'I Still Believe,' 'Bloodshot'

A trio of new nationwide releases are coming in behind expectations, while holdover 'Onward' is facing the biggest second-weekend drop in Pixar's history.

Moviegoing has begun slowing noticeably in the U.S. amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to Friday box office returns.

Early projections show Disney and Pixar's family animated film Onward staying at No. 1 in its second weekend with around $12.5 million. That would mark a 68 percent drop, the steepest decline in Pixar history (The Good Dinosaur fell 59 percent).

And the trio of new films opening nationwide this weekend — I Still Believe, Bloodshot and The Hunt — are all projected to open behind expectations.

The weekend box office could be impacted anywhere between 15 percent to 35 percent, according to analysts. They'll have a better sense once Saturday business unfolds. The good news: some people are still going to cinemas. The bad news: revenue could hit its lowest level since the Sept. 15-17 weekend two decades ago in 2000.

I Still Believe, a faith-based pic from Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company, is eyeing a $10 million to $11 million debut. The last film directed by the Erwin brothers, I Can Only Imagine, started off with $17.1 million in 2018, not adjusted for inflation.

Several weeks ago, many box office analysts were putting I Still Believe at $13 million to $14 million. However, Lionsgate has always tried to expectations to $10 million. The movie earned a glowing A Cinemascore, and is performing best in the south and midwest.

Sony's Vin Diesel action pic Bloodshot is on course to open to $9.3 million, while Universal and Blumhouse's controversial pic The Hunt eyeing a $5.5 million to $6 million opening. It was hoped that each would come in about $2 million higher.

Bloodshot received a B Cinemascore, while The Hunt sat toward the back of the class after earning a C+.

The fast-unfolding events of this week have left the film and exhibition industries reeling.

On Thursday, more films were pulled from the release calendar, including A Quiet Place Part II, Mulan and F9, raising the question of what will be left for theater chains to play this month and next in terms of new offerings.

That was followed by Friday's news that many U.S. theaters — including mega-chains Regal, AMC and Cinemark — are operating at reduced capacity in order to provide plenty of room between patrons.

Distribution sources say Thursday marked the first time they saw a marked dip in moviegoing due to the coronavirus. That trend continued on Friday.

March 14, 8:30 a.m. Updated with revised weekend projections.