Demon Slayer and Mortal Kombat easily dominate the box-office in their sophomore weekend. After crushing pandemic-era standards for R-rated films (and expectations in general), Demon Slayer inched ahead with another $6.4M versus Mortal Kombat’s $6.2M. We expect harder drops for films with fans that typically frontload opening weekend, but Slayer’s increased theater count (from 1,600 to 1,905) helped soften the blow and give it the lead. New wide-release, Separation, opened to $1.8M – enough for fourth place this weekend. The horror film comes from the same studio that previously provided The Marksman back in mid-January, Open Road.
Third place went to Godzilla vs Kong – which is now off HBO Max – with another $2.7M. A few more weeks and it could become the first pandemic era movie to reach $100M domestically (currently it is at ~$90M). Overall, the weekend’s box-office totaled to an estimated $24.7M.
Theater operators have been working overtime to ensure a safe experience for moviegoers, including updates to air filtration systems, contactless ticket sales, reserved seating, and hand-sanitizing stations. Despite that, NYC theaters were among the last to receive permission to re-open – and capacity restrictions were just recently lifted to 33% capacity. While it is obvious that each state has employed different strategies in keeping people safe during the pandemic (or largely ignored it like Florida) – New York’s restrictions are among the tightest. Cinemas in most other states are at or above 50-69% capacity, with a handful of states running no capacity restrictions (refer to Variety’s map at the end of their article).
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to lift theater operations back to 100% capacity by July 1st. The decision is ultimately NY Gov. Cuomo’s, but theater owners are just hopeful that he okays 50% capacity by Memorial Day.
Regardless, theaters across the nation are ready to invite moviegoers back. Along with the NATO-backed initiative called “The Big Screen is Back”, theater owners plan to host a “Cinema Week”. Modeled after Restaurant Week, participating theaters will offer discounted concessions, discounted tickets, and free private theater rentals (starting June 22).
Vox dared to ask “Will we go back to movie theaters when the pandemic is over?” The answer is a resounding yes – there is nothing like seeing a movie with a crowd. “I realized how much I missed the public moviegoing experience to the extent of just hearing the audience’s reaction to what is on screen,” said a moviegoer from Seattle, “Whether it be laughter, a shocked gasp, or tears at a dramatic moment, there is a wonderful community experience that happens when going to the movies. That is what I most look forward to in returning after vaccination.”
But it is not only the communal experience that folks miss. When you buy a movie ticket, you let go of all distractions and commit to what is on the big screen – you can’t just pause midway, or plan to start a movie only to re-watch episodes of The Office. “When my wife and I go to the movies, I know we’re embarking on it together — full attention, no distractions. It’s an experience,” said a Texan moviegoer. Moviegoers want to be fully immersed when there is a film on the big screen, and also have the time to decompress before heading back home. “Going to see a film is like taking a tiny holiday.”
After more than a year stuck at home, people are looking to treat themselves. The demand for a premium cinematic experience is already on the rise: 27 percent of moviegoers paid an upcharge of $3 to $5 to see Godzilla vs Kong on a PLF (premium large format) screen. Historically, that percentage would be closer to 15. People are coming back to theaters, and they crave luxuries like: state-of-the art digital projection and sound, out-of-the ordinary environs, plush seating and expanded food and drink offerings.
All parts of the cinematic industry are getting comfortable with a new normal. Most recently, Sony and Disney signed a flexible deal that will give Disney rights to stream Sony’s 2022 theatrical slate (like Spider-Man) on Disney Plus, after the Pay 1 window (after its theatrical run and home entertainment release). Amid Sony’s deals with Netflix and considering that Sony has no streaming arm of its own, it makes sense that Disney would want the Marvel properties to stay on Disney Plus.
The box-office continues to warm up! May’s schedule kicks things off with Wrath of Man coming to theaters (and HBO Max) this Friday, May 7.