Box Office: Weekend Revenue Hits 20-Year Low Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

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

'Onward' stayed No. 1 in North America but suffered the worst decline in Pixar history, while the faith-based pic 'I Still Believe' topped fellow new offerings 'The Hunt' and 'Bloodshot.'

Moviegoing in the U.S. slowed dramatically over the weekend amid the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in box office revenue falling to a 20-year low, according to initial Sunday estimates.

An official tally won't be finalized until Monday, but revenue is expected to come in around $55.3 million (that could change if Sunday traffic is worse than estimated), according to Comscore. The last time revenue was that low in North America was a weekend in September 2000 ($54.5 million), Comscore adds. Even the first two weekends after 9/11 were higher, at $66.3 million and $59.7 million, respectively.

On Saturday, the grim prospect that cinemas will begin to close on a widespread basis began unfolding as local authorities in two Pennsylvania and New Jersey counties ordered that movie theaters close their doors, including at least 10 AMC locations and a handful of Regal sites. Separately, some houses in New York City, including the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn and Yonkers, and the Film Forum have gone dark. There were also some closures in the hard-hit Seattle area, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland.

As of Sunday morning, one studio distribution executive estimated that 100 or more sites have shut down, but added the situation is fluid. All told, there are nearly 6,000 indoor cinemas theaters in the U.S., according to the National Association of Theatre Owners.

Disney and Pixar's family animated film Onward stayed at No. 1 in its second weekend with $10.5 million. That's a decline of 73 percent, the steepest in Pixar history (The Good Dinosaur fell 59 percent). The film's 10-day domestic total is $60.3 million.

Box office analysts say that holdovers such as Onward fell 25 percent more than they should have, while a trio of new offerings underperformed by 20 percent to 35 percent. They also note that there was a marked drop-off from Friday to Saturday.

Internationally, Onward and other Hollywood films struggled badly in the wake of theater closures across Europe and the continued blackout in China and other parts of Asia. The animated family film tumbled to $6.8 million in its second weekend from 47 markets for a foreign cume of $41.4 million and $101.7 million globally.

"With the worldwide coronavirus epidemic causing many domestic theater chains to go to reduced seating and many international territories to either completely or partially close all theaters, as well as creating uncertainty about going to crowded spaces, all titles have seen larger than expected drops," advised one studio note.

Among the freshmen class of titles, Lionsgate and Kingdom story's faith-based pic I Still Believe opened to $9.5 million. The last film directed by the Erwin brothers, I Can Only Imagine, started off with $17.1 million in 2018, not adjusted for inflation. I Can Only Imagine had the advantage of being based on the blockbuster Christian song of the same name from the rock band MercyMe.

Several weeks ago, many box office analysts thought I Still Believe could start off with $13 million to $14 million, based on tracking. However, Lionsgate has always expected around $10 million. The movie earned a glowing A Cinemascore, and performed best in the South and Midwest. Insiders say Lionsgate was pleased with the film's launch.

Sony's new Vin Diesel action pic Bloodshot followed in third place with an estimated $9.3 million. Heading into its opening, analysts thought it would debut to at least $10 million to $12 million. The film earned a B CinemaScore.

The Vin Diesel movie bowed to a tepid $13 million overseas from 50 markets for a global debut of $24.4 million.

Blumhouse and Universal took the next two spots on the North American chart with The Invisible Man and The Hunt, both from Universal.

Invisible Man fell 60 percent in its second outing to $6 million for a 10-day domestic total of $64.4 million. Overseas, it earned $6.2 million from 65 markets for a foreign total of $58.3 million and $122.7 million, globally.

The Hunta controversial satirical thriller that depicts "elites" kidnapping and then hunting those known as "deplorable" — opened to just $5.3 million after earning a C+ CinemaScore. Last fall, the movie's release was pulled in the wake of several mass shootings across the country.

The rest of the films making the top 10 chart saw unusually steep declines. Warner Bros.' adult drama The Way Back, starring Ben Affleck, tumbled 70 percent in its second weekend to $2.4 million for a domestic total of $13.4 million. Focus Features and Working Title's' Jane Austen adaptation Emma fell 71 percent in its second weekend of wide release to $1.4 million for a domestic total of $13.4 million.

The fast-unfolding events of the past week have left Hollywood and exhibition industries reeling as they face billions of dollars in losses because of the coronavirus.

On Friday, many U.S. theaters — including the mega-chains Regal, AMC and Cinemark — are operating at reduced capacity in order to provide plenty of room between patrons. Going forward, analysts predict that more will close because of increased crowd-control rules set by local authorities. Also, there's a lack of product after this weekend because of so many upcoming new releases being delayed.

"The marketplace has been hit very hard by the coronavirus and the effects this weekend are undeniable," says one distribution source. "The international marketplace is even worse as numbers seemed to fall apart in the U.K. and Germany as theaters are temporarily closing all over the world."