Here comes the sun ~ With the coming of longer days and springtime weather, signs that things are getting better continue to roll in. ‘We’re not in the end zone yet’, but if the current pace holds, theaters may see blockbuster-level revenues return as early as this summer.
Los Angeles theaters have barely warmed up – with just 37% of the market back online – and yet that was enough to propel the DMA to the top weekend grosser at the box-office. Per Deadline, L.A’s weekend totaled to $1.05M, pacing 41% ahead of NYC’s first weekend (March 5-7). The domestic box-office totaled close to $18M, up 7% versus last weekend and reflective of the pent-up demand of moviegoers in the City of Angels. “Movies aren’t the same when you watch them in a living room or in a computer, it’s a completely different feeling in a theater,” a moviegoer named Jesus told Variety. Amen.
Thanks to the L.A re-open, Raya and the Last Dragon topped the charts with $5.2M, almost 91% of what it earned the weekend prior (a fantastic hold). In second place was Tom & Jerry, holding onto 93% of last weekend’s box-office for $3.8M. Again, both films are already available to stream at home – and yet moviegoers are making the trip to the theater. For Tom & Jerry, L.A was the top market. Third place went to the new release from Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate, The Courier. The Cold War spy-thriller with Benedict Cumberbatch and Rachel Brosnahan picked up $2M.
With both NYC and L.A open – albeit at 25% capacity – arthouses were able to capitalize on specialty titles and Oscar nominees, especially since the Oscars is delayed to April 25th. The five Oscar nominated pics in theaters – The Father, Minari, Judas and the Black Messiah, Nomadland, and Promising Young Woman – jumped in both theater counts and box-office. Best Picture contender Nomadland previously made headlines because of director Chloé Zhao becoming the first woman of color to get a Best Director nomination; the film’s box-office spiked +157% over the weekend. Best Picture nominees Minari and Promising Young Woman saw a 131% and 117% uptick, respectively.
For the first time since the pandemic began, a record of 57% of moviegoers said they would feel comfortable about returning to theaters (as reported by leading polling firm National Research Group). This figure matches the comfort level recorded on Sunday, March 15th – the Sunday before U.S. cinemas went dark. Now that the lights have switched back on, 61% of moviegoers believe theaters to be very or somewhat safe.
Notably, every moviegoer who had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine reported being comfortable returning to the movie theater – 61% “somewhat comfortable”, 39% “very comfortable”.
Close to half of the moviegoers surveyed by NRG were aware that their local cinemas have re-opened, marking another pandemic-record. Coinciding with the rise in comfort and awareness, 68% planned to see a movie in theaters within the next three months – a figure that has been on a “steady upward trajectory in the past four weeks”.
Amid the domestic box-office’s biggest markets reopening and tentpole films still in play, theater chains are eyeing a substantial uptick in revenue after a year under the shadow of COVID-19. Scheduled to release March 31st in theaters and HBO Max, Godzilla vs Kong has been projected by bullish analysts to deliver a $20M 3-day weekend – a pandemic record that has remained out-of-reach so far. Wonder Woman 1984 came close with $16.7M.
It would be a great way to kick-off the Q2 slate. Tried-and-true tentpoles – like Mortal Kombat (4/16), Black Widow (5/07), Cruella (5/28), A Quiet Place II (5/28), The Conjuring 3 (6/04), and F9 (6/25) – are still on schedule. Fresh entries – like Free Guy (5/21) and Disney’s Luca (6/18) – could also be embraced my moviegoers looking for something new.
In the meantime, Universal’s Nobody hits theaters this Friday, March 26th.