Sunday March 15, 2020
U.S. Box Office Has Worst Weekend Since 2001
Anyone go to the movies this weekend? Not us. We‘re kind of hunkered down as the coronavirus situation in the U.S. worsens and there are few (no?) signs of leadership from Washington, D.C. So the leadership has to be us.
People are definitely staying away. The second weekend of Pixar’s “Onward” came in first place with $10.5 million—a drop of 73%. Is that a big drop? God, yes. It's big for a shitty live-action movie let alone a good, Pixar movie. A 30-40% drop is probably more common. Second place was a Christian movie from Lionsgate, “I Still Believe,” which grossed $9.5. Vin Diesel's sci-fi superhero/live forever flick “Bloodshot,” came in third with $9.5.
Overall, Box Office Mojo reports we spent a total of $53.9 million domestically at the box office. For the 11th weekend of the year (i.e., this one), that's the lowest since ... 1995. Unadjusted.
How long has it been since we had any weekend that low? Here are the lowest weekend totals for each year this century:
- 2019: $73.4 million (Feb. 1-3)
- 2018: $85.8 million (Dec. 7-9)
- 2017: $69.3 million (Aug. 25-27)
- 2016: $83.7 million (Dec. 9-11)
- 2015: $74.1 million (Oct. 30-Nov. 1)
- 2014: $66.1 million (Sept. 5-7)
- 2013: $85.0 million (Sept. 6-8)
- 2012: $67.9 million (Sept. 7-9)
- 2011: $75.3 million (Dec. 9-11)
- 2010: $82.2 million (Sept. 10-12)
- 2009: $90.8 million (Oct. 30-Nov. 1)
- 2008: $68.2 million (Sept. 5-7)
- 2007: $77.9 million (April 27-29)
- 2006: $71.6 million (Sept. 8-10)
- 2005: $82.9 million (April 15-17)
- 2004: $71.3 million (Sept. 24-26)
- 2003: $67.5 million (Sept. 5-7)
- 2002: $72.6 million (Sept. 6-8)
Box Office Mojo's numbers get a little odd in 2001. They list two weekends worse than our current one—both holiday weekends:
- April 13-16, Easter weekend: $26.2 million
- Oct. 5-8, Columbus Day weekend: $2.9 million
$2.9 million? My immediate thought was the anthrax scare after the 9/11 scare, and maybe theaters were shuttered, but I can't find any evidence of that. And it doesn't explain the Easter weekend fiasco before any of that happened. The next year's Easter weekend grossed $136. The previous one, in 2000, grossed $80.
Either way, this weekend was historically bad at the box office. And it's going to get worse as more people stay away and more theater chains close. In fact, it should probably be worse already. We're not taking this seriously enough. Cf., what China did.