With no new wide-releases this past weekend, The Croods: A New Age once again takes the #1 spot at the box-office, earning $1.7M (a hold of 82% of the prior weekend). A magnet for families looking for entertainment, Croods also becomes the second film to cross the cumulative $50M domestic total during this COVID pandemic (the first was Tenet). Following Croods, the weekend’s top five was rounded out by The Little Things ($1.2M), Judas and the Black Messiah ($905K), Wonder Woman 1984 ($805K), and The Marksman ($775K). Oscar contender Nomadland debuted as a limited release, but Disney has not reported any box-office results yet.
Even though the winter has chilled the box-office stateside, IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond believes the records being set overseas foreshadows pent-up demand for the movies. IMAX reported that gross ticket sales in China, during the Chinese New Year Weekend (Feb 12th), beat 2019’s record by 45%! As Gelfond puts it, “when it’s safe to go outside and people want to go, they’re going to run to the movies.”
This increase was largely driven by the debut of local Chinese film Detective Chinatown 3, which – in a single-day – earned the equivalent of $163 million. This breaks the single-day, single-market record previously held by Avengers: Endgame (which had a single-day of $157 million in North America). Yes – on the other side of the globe and in the middle of a pandemic – there was a movie that had a bigger, single-market opening weekend than Avengers Endgame: $394M vs $357M. Despite the fact that the film (trailer here) dropped 88% from its record opening to $45M this weekend – a reflection of poor word-of-mouth – that record-breaking opening is not likely to be beaten soon. So, how did it happen?
The film was originally due to release last January for 2020’s Chinese New Year. At the time, advance ticket sales clocked in at $31M – before having to be refunded due to COVID lockdown. Going into this year, the film pre-sold $150M (also a new record for single-market pre-sales). As per Chinese government mandate, all tickets had to be purchased online – creating anxiety for the film’s ‘strong foundation of hardcore fans’ about being able to get seats, in light of 50-75% capacity restrictions and travel bans for Chinese New Year. Also, tickets were being sold at a premium for the holiday. Notably, the filmmakers decided that Detective Chinatown 3’s debut was for theaters only; they resisted recommendations to release early on streaming platforms.
Smart move. Eric Wold, Wall Street Analyst, pointed this out as IMAX’s stock soared, “[the film’s success] only demonstrates the power of the theatrical window for blockbuster films — and a reason to hold onto a film vs. pivoting too early to make the film available on streaming platforms. We also believe this highlights the box office opportunity for an exceptional portfolio of films that have been delayed from 2020 and early 2021 into the second half of 2021 and 2022.”
The second half of 2021 is indeed stacked with many blockbusters that moviegoers have been anticipating for at least a year. Moviegoers will have a lot to choose from early on, including the Minions: The Rise of Gru, Top Gun Maverick, Marvel’s Shang Chi, Jungle Cruise, The Suicide Squad, Candyman, A Quiet Place II – the list goes on and on. Most recently, No Time to Die was delayed again into October, almost two years after it’s original release date of Nov 8th 2019.
In an interview with Metro UK, Shawn Robbins (Chief Analyst at Boxoffice Pro) had this to say about the next James Bond film: “With moviegoers eager to get back out in the world after this health crisis subsides, we might see a boom in demand for the cinematic experience — as the saying, absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Of note, when asked about the possibility of a streaming release for No Time to Die, Robbins insisted: “There are many arguments to be made here, but I believe the bottom line is that a streaming release for No Time to Die could have several negative consequences – not just for cinemas, but for the movie’s studio partners, financial needs, and the image of the Bond property itself… It’s a big deal when a new 007 film comes out, and streaming releases have yet to match the kind of ‘event-ised’ nature commanded by and unique to theatrical blockbusters”.
February has always been a short month, but we have one more title before it ends: Tom & Jerry, in theaters and on HBO Max this Friday 2/26. Looking ahead, March will bring five new titles into theaters: Boogie (Fri 3/05), Chaos Walking (Fri 3/05), Raya and the Last Dragon (Fri 3/05 and Disney+ PVOD), The Courier (Fri 3/19), and Godzilla Vs. Kong (Wed 3/31 and HBO Max).