About three quarters of the country’s movie theaters are open, but Americans are not going back in significant numbers in the COVID-era, even with new films coming into the marketplace weekly.
The biggest movies continue to limp along. According to studio estimates Sunday, Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” earned $4.7 million in its third weekend from nearly 2,930 locations, “The New Mutants” added $1.6 million in its fourth weekend, “Unhinged” brought in $1.3 million and the rom-com “The Broken Hearts Gallery” picked up an additional $800,000 in its second weekend.
Newcomers aren’t faring any better: The faith-based “Infidel,” which stars Jim Caviezel, did the best with $1.5 million from a little more than 1,700 theaters.
This weekend also saw the limited release of “The Nest,” with Jude Law and Carrie Coon, and “The Secrets We Keep,” with Noomi Rapace. Both played in fewer than 500 theaters across the country and neither got much more than $200 per location. “The Nest” earned an estimated $62,000 from 301 locations and “The Secrets We Keep” brought in just under $90,000 from 471 theaters.
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“There’s no question that this is an extraordinarily challenging marketplace, especially for North America,” says Paul Dergarabedian, Comscore’s senior media analyst. “This is a slow roll out. It’s going to take some time.”
The nation’s biggest chains have been open for about a month after nearly six months of being closed by the pandemic and a lack of new releases. But since reopening with enhanced safety measure and the promise of new blockbusters, they haven’t gotten the infusion of business they were hoping for. Indoor theaters still aren’t open in two of the country’s biggest markets, New York and Los Angeles.
The North American earnings have not been promising for studios with theatrical releases on the horizon either. “Tenet” has only earned $36.1 million from North American theaters to date. That performance has led some studios to push back releases even further and some wonder whether more will follow. The next major release on the calendar is Marvel’s “Black Widow” on Nov. 6.
“It’s natural that we’re going to see release date changes for many movies,” Dergarabedian says. “It’s a very unpredictable marketplace.”
Globally, “Tenet” managed to cross a major milestone this weekend, hitting the $250 million mark.
Still, just because theaters are doing more business internationally does not mean a new movie will be a surefire hit, as Disney’s live-action “Mulan” has proven in China.
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After last week’s disappointing debut, “Mulan” dropped 72% in its second weekend and local audiences have criticized it for being ” inauthentic.” The film added $6.5 million in China and $10.9 million total, bringing its international total to $57 million.
The $200 million production was supposed to be a massive global theatrical release back in March and Disney revised plans a number of times before settling on a hybrid release. “Mulan” is available as $30 rental for Disney+ subscribers and playing in theaters internationally where the streaming service isn’t available.
But the industry is also just getting its footing in this new COVID-era marketplace. Box-office tracker Comscore released a domestic top 10 chart for the first time in six months.
“Just having a full top 10 chart is a real win for the industry,” Dergarabedian says. “The question is: How many big movies are coming out in the next few weeks and months? And will the marketplace be able to sustain itself? That remains to be seen.”
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