Box Office Pops Upon New York City Theaters Reopening

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

AMC Empire 25 in Times Square on Friday, March 5, 2021.

In a much-needed boost for the beleaguered box office, overall revenue could be up by as much as 14 percent for the weekend.

By early afternoon on Friday, numerous showings of Disney's new animated pic Raya and the Last Dragon were sold out at AMC 19th Street in Manhattan. Ditto for Searchlight's specialty pic Nomadland.

The multiplex was among dozens of cinemas across New York City — including the country's busiest theater, the AMC Empire 25 in Times Square — that reopened on Friday after nearly a year of being shuttered because of the pandemic.

While capacity is capped at 25 percent, or 50 people — a restriction that makes turning a profit tough — New York City is an important first step as the box office attempts to recover (Los Angeles, the country's other biggest moviegoing market, should follow soon). Cinemas in San Francisco, another key market, are beginning to reopen.

Hollywood studios and theater owners maintain that consumers are slowly growing more comfortable about returning to theaters, and Friday's traffic in New York proved their point.

If early estimates hold, box office revenue for the weekend should be up as much as 14 percent over the previous weekend. While the overall number is still low compared to other years, the outlook is improving.

Raya is predicted to win the weekend with an opening in the $8 million range. The animated film is also debuting simultaneously on Disney+ for $30, so some key theater chains aren't playing the film, including Cinemark. That's dinging the film at the box office. Other chains passing include Harkins, Cinepolis and Cineplex.

Warner Bros.' Tom & Jerry looks to follow with an estimated $6 million or more in its second weekend, a strong showing.

New entry Chaos Walking is headed for $3.5 million to $4 million, while specialty pic Boogie looks to debut to more than $1 million.