The North American box office is resuming after an unprecedented five-month shutdown due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
The major circuits in Canada reopened in earnest over the weekend to welcome Paramount’s The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run and the Russell Crowe road-rage thriller Unhinged, from Solstice Studios. They are the first new Hollywood releases to open wide since the pandemic forced cinemas to close their doors in March.
In the U.S., the big chains have delayed reopening several times due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, but are now beginning to switch the lights on in advance of new product. Unhinged expects to have a sizeable footprint when opening in the U.S. on Aug. 21, while even more cinemas will be open in time Christopher Nolan’s tentpole Tenet on Sept. 3.
SpongeBob: Sponge on the Run earned an estimated $900,000 from 300 runs in Canada, where theaters are operating at 50 percent capacity as part of new protocols being implemented because of coronavirus (some cinemas there only allow 50 people total regardless of the size of the auditorium). The animated film won’t play in theaters in the U.S., where it is being sent straight to CBS All Access.
Unhinged grossed an estimated $582,000 from 299 runs for Canadian distributor VVS.
While the grosses for the pair of films weren’t huge, they were still a victory in terms of showing that consumers will go to the movies amid the ongoing pandemic.
“Any way you slice it in my opinion, people did show up and that is a good thing as we have to start somewhere on the road to recovery,” says one top executive at a rival studio. He cautions that making judgments about grosses is difficult because there are no comparisons in the age of the “new normal.”
Solstice distribution chief Shari Hardison says that drive-ins made up the biggest portion of the ticket sales for Unhinged. In terms of indoor cinemas, theaters in Canadian suburbs outperformed locations in the major cities. “We always knew this would be a slow burn,” says Solstice CEO Mark Gill.
When Unhinged drives into the U.S. next week, about 50 percent of theaters will be open in 42 states, followed by 75 percent the following weekend. For now, cinemas remain shuttered in California and New York, the two largest moviegoing markets in the country, as well as in New Jersey, Washington, Oregon, North Carolina and Maryland.
On Sunday, Comscore reported box office grosses for the first time since March, although it isn’t yet ranking films. In the U.S., a myriad of independent films are playing in a smattering of smaller cinema chains which have been able to reopen, along with drive-ins.
David Ayer’s The Tax Collector, starring Shia LaBeouf continued to do well in its second weekend, earning $203,722 from 101 theaters for a cume of $634,145 for RLJE films. The filmmakers say the pic has grossed more than $5 million on digital and VOD in its first eight days of release.
Saban Films’ The Silencing opened with an estimated weekend gross of $44,803 on 76 screens.
Many cinemas overseas have already reopened, including in China. Warner Bros.’ rerelease of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone won the weekend in the Middle Kingdom with a pleasing $13.6 million — Imax theaters accounted for a hefty $2.1 million — while Sony’s Bad Boys for Life debuted in China to $3.2 million to finish Sunday with a global cume of $426.4 million, the best showing so far of 2020, per Comscore.
In advance of Tenet, Warners is rereleasing Nolan’s Interstellar and a 10th anniversary edition of Inception, which debuted to $1.6 million over the weekend from 37 markets. Highlights of Interstellar’s weekend included $1.7 million in China ticket sales.
In Spain, box office hit Father There Is Only One 2 (Padre No Hay MAS Que Uno 2), crossed the $8 million mark with $1 million in its third weekend. The sequel is from Sony Pictures International Productions.
STXfilms’ action adventure Greenland continued its international rollout, taking in $2.8 million from 1,063 locations for an estimated total of $4.6 million.
Scoob! — which went straight to premium VOD in the U.S. — earned $1 million from 17 international markets for a theatrical cume of $14.2 million.