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The European box office took a major hit over the weekend, with cinemas in several major territories — including France, Spain and Italy — shut down entirely in response to the coronavirus epidemic and the ones still open playing to half-empty rooms.
Revenue in the U.K. and Germany, the last two major territories still open for business over the weekend (though Germany has since shut down), plunged, with British box office cut in half and Germany returns down 75 percent week-over-week.
Total box office for the top five films in the U.K. was £3.31 million ($4 million), a 49 percent drop of last week’s total of $7.9 million. U.K. cinemas remain open as of Monday but perhaps not for long. The Scottish government has issued new guidelines advising against gatherings of 500 people or more. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.K. topped 1,550 on Monday, with 36 deaths, and pressure is growing on the government to tighten restrictions. On Monday night, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on residents to avoid social venues such as theaters, pubs and restaurants to avoid contagion.
In Germany, cinema attendance over the weekend fell to an all-time low for March, with just 365,000 tickets sold, a 75 percent week-to-week drop. The only film to sell more than 50,000 tickets was the local-language comedy Die Känguru-Chroniken, which sold 90,000 tickets for a €700,000 ($861,000) gross. Even that figure will look large come next weekend. German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday announced new lockdown measures that will see sharp restrictions on all non-essential businesses, including cinemas.
Both France and Spain shut down their theaters over the weekend, severely cutting into box office grosses. Italy, Poland, Ireland and the Netherlands are among the other European territories on cinema lockdown.
Disney and Pixar’s Onward provided a dramatic case study in the impact of the new quarantine measures. The animated feature took in just $6.8 million internationally on its second weekend, a 76 percent dip, unheard of for a Pixar title. In the U.K., Onward saw a 50.8 percent drop from last weekend to $1.6 million. In Germany, the feature, which had its world premiere last month at the Berlin International Film Festival, drew just 33,000 spectators for a $296,000 take. Onward has earned $41.4 million abroad and $60.3 million domestically since its release.
France, Europe’s largest territory in terms of cinema attendance, shut down all its theaters on Friday, following Italy in a dramatic national lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The impact of the closures can already be seen in attendance figures. Estimates published Monday by the trade magazine DHR shows cinema attendance from March 1-15 down 60 percent year-over-year, with 7.3 million tickets sold, compared to 18.34 million over the same period in 2019. Even if French theaters reopen in a month’s time as is currently planned, DHR forecasts a similar drop-off for the period of April 16-30 from 18.22 million admissions to 7.3 million as film fans only slowly return to theaters.
What is certain is that the box office pain will get worse before it gets better. By this time next week, most of Europe will be in lockdown and international grosses will be heading towards new record lows.
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