A global health crisis stemming from the spread of the novel Coronavirus COVID-19 is dominating headlines across the globe. Boxoffice Pro is tracking the latest updates on the theatrical market.
MARCH 14 UPDATE
All cinemas in France have been ordered to close by the country’s government. The announcement was made during a televised address detailing additional nationwide measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The impact of the Coronavirus is now being felt in the domestic box office, with steep declines in attendance nationwide. In North America, 18 of the market’s 25 largest chains have begun operating at half-capacity as of this writing:
(Screen and Location Counts as of 1/1/2020)
- AMC Theatres, the top circuit in North America with over 8,000 screens across 634 locations.
- Regal Cinemas, the second largest chain in North America and a subsidiary of the U.K.’s Cineworld, soon to be the market’s largest exhibition circuit. Regal operates 7,206 screens across 548 locations.
- Cineplex, Canada’s leading circuit with 1,695 screens across 165 locations. Cineworld is expected to complete its acquisition of Cineplex in the coming months.
- Harkins Theatres, the sixth largest circuit in the North American market with 515 screens across 34 locations, concentrated in the southwestern United States. Harkins has instituted reduced admissions at select locations while also lowering the price of popcorn and drinks at their concession stands.
- B&B Theatres, one of the largest family owned-and-operated circuits in the world and the seventh largest in North America, operating 418 screens across 48 locations.
- CMX Cinemas, the U.S. brand of Mexican exhibition giant Cinemex. CMX operates 410 screens across 40 locations, a number that will increase once it completes its recently announced acquisition of Texas-based dine-in circuit Star Cinema Grill.
- Malco Theatres, the ninth largest circuit in the domestic market with 363 screens and 35 locations.
- Showcase Cinemas, part of multi-national circuit National Amusements, which has also instituted limited capacity screenings in its U.K. cinemas. Showcase operates 367 screens across 27 locations.
- Studio Movie Grill, the largest dine-in circuit in North America with 353 screens across 34 locations.
- Landmark Cinemas of Canada, the second largest circuit in the Great White North with 322 screens across 45 locations.
- Alamo Drafthouse, the number 13 circuit in the domestic market and second-largest dine-in exhibitor in the United States with 316 screens across 41 locations. Alamo Drafthouse has also closed two of its New York locations until further notice.
- Caribbean Cinemas, the leading circuit in the Caribbean which operates 295 screens within U.S. territories. Caribbean Cinemas is the #15 circuit by screen size in the domestic market.
- Southern Theatres, which operates cinemas under the Grand Theatres and AmStar Cinemas banner. Southern is the #17 circuit in the North American market with 266 screens across 18 locations.
- Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas, the U.S. subsidiary of mutli-national giant Cinépolis, is implementing half capacity screenings at select locations. Cinépolis operates 263 screens across 28 locations in the United States.
- Emagine Entertainment, which operates 254 screens across 21 locations in the Midwest. Emagine was one of the first U.S. circuits to institute half-capacity screenings throughout its circuit. It is the 21st largest cinema chain in the domestic market.
- Landmark Theatres, the largest movie theater chain in the market specializing in independent cinema with 251 screens across 51 locations. The 22nd largest circuit in North America by screen count.
- Arclight Cinemas, a specialty circuit with locations in several states.
- Bow Tie Cinemas, the #25 circuit in the domestic market with 220 screens across 32 locations.
Disney is delaying the upcoming releases of Mulan, New Mutants, and Antlers. The studio did not provide new dates for the film in question, taking a similar approach to Paramount in removing new releases from the schedule altogether until further notice.
Our box office forecast is predicting a year-over-year drop of 29 to 34 percent this weekend. Thursday night grosses for Sony’s Bloodshot, which began at 5 p.m. and were programmed through the evening, came in at $1.2 million from 2,631 locations. Sony is expecting the film to finish its opening weekend at $10 million, in line with the expectations from our own forecast.
Bloodshot is one of the weekend’s three new releases from major studios, along with Universal’s The Hunt and Lionsgates’ I Still Believe. The Lionsgate faith-based title earned $780k from Wednesday and Thursday previews, in line with the early performance of titles like Adrift ($11.6M opening weekend, $31.4M total) and Five Feet Apart ($13.1M opening weekend, $45.9M total). These early figures are another early indicator that the domestic box office hasn’t been significantly impacted by coronavirus concerns to date.
That isn’t to suggest an impact isn’t imminent. In his latest column, Boxoffice Pro chief analyst Shawn Robbins observes that Wednesday to Thursday box office from a sample of 18 films shows a 28 percent decline. “It’s highly unusual for multiple, sharp Thursday drops without holiday considerations, premium screen losses to Thursday night openers, or major new releases in general,” he writes. “For example, the average Wednesday-to-Thursday decline of the top twenty films last Thursday, March 5 was just over 10 percent. On Thursday, March 12, high profile titles like The Way Back, Bad Boys for Life, and Birds of Prey slid between 25 and 32 percent from their prior Wednesday grosses.”
Further impact on the domestic box office will come as cinemas in the United States implement containment measures.
Friday afternoon saw a major development as both AMC Theatres and Malco, the market’s #1 and #9 circuits respectively, both adopted strict policies in their circuits to operate auditoriums at half capacity.
A growing number of art house theaters across the country are voluntarily adhering to a maximum capacity of 250 admissions per auditorium. Chicago’s Music Box Theatre and Portland’s Hollywood Theatre confirmed the capacity changes via Twitter. Art House Convergence is sharing a COVID-19 preparedness resources guide freely online for interested exhibitors.
Dine-in circuit Alamo Drafthouse, the thirteenth largest cinema chain in North America, has instituted additional sanitation measures across its circuit. The exhibitor is one of the first major circuits in the United States to announce it will be providing affected staff paid sick leave if they begin experiencing symptoms.
Internationally, we have confirmed widespread cinema closures in Poland, Italy, Czech Republic, Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia. Spain is the latest market to see cinemas go dark, with several of the country’s top chains suspending operations until at least March 27.
Other overseas markets have implemented social distancing measures in cinemas, with limits on capacity per auditorium, or have seen theater closures in specific regions.
In France, Boxoffice Pro France reports FNCF president Richard Patry has offered its support to the country’s exhibitors. As of Friday evening, the cinema trade body representative assured exhibitors that cinemas could stay open as long as capacity did not exceed 100 people.
Studios have begun making further changes to the release schedule, with notable release delays coming from Universal and Paramount.
Universal Pictures pushed back the release date of F9, the latest entry in The Fast and the Furious franchise, from May 22 to April 2, 2021.
Paramount has removed three titles from the schedule entirely: A Quiet Place Part II and Blue Story, originally scheduled for March 20, and The Lovebirds, originally scheduled for April 3. The studio has not confirmed new dates for the films in question.
Cinema closures continues to mount across Europe. Boxoffice Pro has confirmed a steep decrease in listed showtimes in Czech Republic following the country’s government announcement of a 30-day state of emergency due to the Coronavirus.
Kinepolis announced it would be shuttering its cinemas in Belgium until at least March 31. Kinepolis is one of the world’s largest exhibition circuits with 1,079 screens globally. In Europe, it operates 55 cinemas across Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Poland. The company recently entered the North American market with the acquisition of Landmark Cinemas of Canada and U.S. exhibitor MJR Digital Cinemas, adding 46 cinemas in Canada and 10 in the United States to its global circuit.
“In view of recent developments, Kinepolis has decided, in consultation with the local authorities concerned, to close all Belgian Kinepolis cinemas from tomorrow (March, 13) until at least 31 March,” read a statement delivered by the company. “In the other countries, consultation with the relevant authorities is ongoing and for a number of cinemas, measures have been taken to limit the occupancy per room, as well as a number of additional measures, such as a stronger spread of the starting time of the film screenings. We are also preparing for additional measures in other countries, but these decisions will always be taken in close consultation with the local authorities.”
Kinepolis added that the decision will have “a severe impact on the group’s financial results for the first half of the year,” depending on the duration of the closure and the number of cinemas involved.
In India, PVR Cinemas has confirmed it will be closing its sites in the states of Kerala, Delhi ,and UT of Jammu & Kashmir in accordance to a precautionary advisory by local officials. PVR operates a total of 841 screens across 176 locations in India and Sri Lanka. No further closures beyond the affected regions in India have been independently confirmed by Boxoffice Pro.
In the United States, Film at Lincoln Center, the cinema division of the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, announced its would suspend operations through the month of March. Two of its most influential events, New Directors/New Films and the Chaplin Award Gala, will be rescheduled for later this fall.
“As the COVID-19 situation develops, Film at Lincoln Center’s top priority remains the health, wellness, and safety of our staff, audiences, and artists,” said Film at Lincoln Center executive director Lesli Klainberg in a statement. “We remain committed to our nonprofit mission—supporting the art and elevating the craft of cinema.”
The IFC Center, another specialty cinema in New York, reached out to patrons today announcing they would be reducing capacity in their auditoriums by 50 percent, echoing similar initiatives by other cinemas around the world.
CinemaCon 2020 has been officially cancelled. The annual convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners was scheduled to take place in Las Vegas from March 30 to April 2. It is the latest international convention cancelled by concerns over the Coronavirus.
John Fithian, NATO president & CEO, and Mitch Neuhauser, managing director of CinemaCon, sent the following statement to the media on Wednesday evening:
It is with great regret we are announcing the cancellation of CinemaCon 2020. Each spring, motion picture exhibitors, distributors and industry partners from around the world meet in Las Vegas to share information and celebrate the moviegoing experience. This year, due to the travel ban from the European Union, the unique travel difficulties in many other areas of the world and other challenges presented by the Coronavirus pandemic, a significant portion of the worldwide motion picture community is not able to attend CinemaCon. While local outbreaks vary widely in severity, the global circumstances make it impossible for us to mount the show that our attendees have come to expect. After consultation with our attendees, trade show exhibitors, sponsors, and studio presenters, NATO has decided therefore to cancel CinemaCon 2020. We look forward to continuing the 10-year tradition of presenting the largest movie theater convention in the world and joining our attendees in future celebrations of the moviegoing experience.
The news came in hours after the National Basketball Association abruptly announced it would be suspending the rest of its season, following confirmation a player had tested positive for COVID-19. Shortly afterward, actor Tom Hanks released a statement confirming he had tested positive for COVID-19 in Australia during the production of a film.
French exhibitors and distributors came together on Tuesday evening to request support from the country’s Minister of Culture and representatives from the Ministries of Economy & Finance and Labor, according to Boxoffice Pro France. Financial measures are currently being discussed to offer the theatrical exhibition sector support during the crisis, including the possibility of grants for art-house theaters, selective support for distributors, and a postponement of tax payments. .
In Poland, the government announced closures of all the country’s cultural institutions, including cinemas, effective March 12. The country’s largest circuit, Helios, which operates 277 screens across 49 locations, confirmed it would be closing its locations via a post on its official Facebook page.
Nationwide containment measures ordered by the Italian government have effectively shut down the country’s cinemas through April 3. Screens in Italy, which has regularly ranked among the world’s top 15 markets in recent years, will go dark for the coming three weekends.
Boxoffice Pro France reports regional closures as well as measures to limit capacity in affected areas of the French market. Two cinemas in Morbihan remain closed, with one location opened at half-capacity. Cinemas in Oise remain open but with restrictions of 50 percent capacity. In Haut-Rhin, cinema attendance is restricted to a limit of 50 patrons per auditorium. Similar restrictions to public gatherings in Ajaccio have similarly affected cinemas in the region through the end of March.
Local films in the French market, which represented a market share of 35 percent of its 2019 box office, have begun steering clear of the coming weeks. Keren Ben Rafael ‘s The End of Love was moved from its April 8 date to September 2.
Sony’s Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway became the second major studio title to delay its release due to the virus. The sequel is pushing its April 3 release to August 7 in North America and across European markets.
In Ireland, Omniplex, the country’s leading circuit (245 screens across 32 locations), has implemented an “In-Cinema Seat Separation” program as part of their protective measures to encourage social distancing. The measure is similar to that practiced by French cinemas, effectively cutting capacity in each auditorium by 50 percent.
Omniplex has also increased cleaning shifts, promoted the use of digital ticketing, and added hand sanitation stations in every cinema foyer. “In-cinema seat separation will give [a one meter] separation between each guest, as recommended by the [World Health Organization] for social distancing. By reducing our capacity by 50 percent, we hope to give cinemagoers peace of mind when attending the movies,” said Mark Anderson, director of Omniplex.
Domestically, NATO of CA/NV states that a ban on mass gatherings bringing together 1,000 or more people by Santa Clara County Public Health does not apply to any cinema with auditoriums that seat fewer than a thousand people.
“Santa Clara County Public Health’s ban on mass gatherings, issued March 9, does not apply to any commercial movie theaters operating in the county,” reads a press release issued by the trade association. “Movie theaters remain open, and their owners are in close contact with federal, state, and local health officials and will continue to act with their guidance in line with local conditions.”
As of March 9, the biggest impact of COVID-19 on the box office has been largely limited to China, Japan, South Korea, and Italy, four of the countries most affected by the health crisis to date. Theater closures and a steep downturn in admissions in those markets have already made a dent on 2020’s global box office outlook. China and South Korea, the world’s number two and five markets respectively, combined to represent 25 percent of the global box office in 2018. The downturn in those markets alone will likely stall further growth in APAC, international, and global figures in 2020.
In Italy, the country with the highest number of COVID-19 cases outside of China and South Korea, regional quarantines have prompted theater closings in parts of the country. The Italian market posted a solid recovery in 2019 after a downturn in 2018, recording a 14.4 percent bump in box office and 13.6 percent increase in admissions. That momentum has stalled with a large-scale market disruption. The Hollywood titles most affected by the Italian closures to-date have been Bad Boys for Life ($1.5M through three weeks) and The Grudge ($59k, new release), neither of them established IPs in the country. Bad Boys II grossed $3.3 million in Italy in 2003 while the previous iteration of The Grudge opened to $2 million in 2004 and ended its theatrical run with $6.2 million.
Box office data in North America, however, remains relatively stable and mostly in line with existing projections. Universal’s The Invisible Man and Disney Pixar’s Onward both performed within the expected range of our original forecasts. The Invisible Man opened in the last weekend of February to $28.2 million domestically from a projected range of $25 to $30 million.
Despite coming from major studios, neither of the films are tied to an ongoing franchise that would provide a definite basis for comparison. 2020 domestic box office finished the weekend of March 8 1.9 percent ahead of 2019. That statistic is set to change in the coming days, but not because of the Coronavirus: March 9, 2019 saw Disney’s release of Captain Marvel, the first major blockbuster of what turned out to be a record-breaking year for the studio.
While it is logical to assume fears of the virus have influenced domestic attendance at some level in 2020, domestic box office figures to date haven’t significantly deviated from our projections. That isn’t to suggest the market will not be impacted in the future, simply that current data shows no direct impact to the moviegoing market.
The COVID-19 health crisis comes during a quiet period for Hollywood tentpoles, with few major worldwide day-date releases scheduled for the coming weeks. The most high-profile release delay so far has been James Bond title No Time to Die. The Bond franchise is in a unique position among Hollywood tentpoles, perhaps the single-most series dependant on a closely coordinated and carefully scheduled global marketing campaign. Such an effort is nearly impossible to execute properly in the immediate future. Hours after No Time to Die moved its U.S. release to November, Universal’s Trolls World Tour moved its release up a week to take up Bond’s April 10 slot.
This is an unprecedented situation on a global scale for the cinema market, with virtually no point of relevant comparison. The closest reference in our database is the 2009 H1N1 “Swine Flu” epidemic in Mexico that caused cinema closures and an overall downturn in attendance during the months of April and May.
The Mexican box office saw steep declines over a four week period during the height of the outbreak: April 24-26, May 8-10, May 15-17. Cinemas were closed and didn’t report any box office on the weekend of May 1-3. The only title affected was Universal’s Fast and Furious, already in the 4th week of its run when the box office was impacted. Fast and Furious ended its run in Mexico with $13.2M, significantly ahead of its franchise predecessor Tokyo Drift ($5.3M, 2006) but well behind the following entry in the series, Fast Five ($25.9M, 2011). For context, the last Fast & Furious film in Mexico, Hobbs & Shaw, grossed $17.3M last year. A new entry, F9, is currently scheduled for release in May.
By year end, total admissions in Mexican cinemas were down 1.43 percent year over year despite the crisis, with admissions actually seeing a 1.2 percent bump when compared to 2007. The market rebounded in the summer months, as the rate of infections in the country dropped. Mexico went on to set a new box office record the following year.
There are numerous key factors that make this comparison imperfect, if not wholly irrelevant–particularly in the global nature of the spread of COVID-19. The comparison with Mexico’s H1N1 crisis merely points out the potential for any individual market to recover once the health crisis is under control.
Cinema chains around the world have already begun preparations to combat the virus at their locations. The National Association of Theatre Owners provided its members with resources on preparing for a flu pandemic in January.
On March 6, multinational exhibitor Cineworld, one of the largest circuits in North America, issued a statement addressing investor concerns around the impact of COVID-19 on its business:
Thus far, we have not observed any material impact on our movie theatre admissions due to COVID-19. Following an increase in admissions in the first two months of the year against the same period in the previous year, we continue to see good levels of admissions in all our territories, despite the reported spread of COVID-19. Although the release of the new Bond movie has been postponed to November 2020 largely due to closure of cinemas in the Asian markets, the studios have advised us that in the countries in which we operate, they currently remain committed to their release schedule for the coming months and remainder of the year.
There can be no certainty as to the future impact of COVID-19. We are however taking measures to ensure that we prepare our business for all possible eventualities. Should conditions relating to COVID-19 continue or worsen, we have measures at our disposal to reduce the impact on our business including, but not limited to, capex postponement and cost reduction.
As of today, the release calendar doesn’t show any other major changes stemming from the Bond delay. Regional cinema closures in the United States, due to inclement weather like winter storms or hurricanes, aren’t unusual and usually don’t prompt rescheduling by the studios.