For the umpteenth time during the pandemic, no major studio releases are on deck for the domestic market this weekend. The good news: if nothing significant changes on this year’s remaining calendar, it will be the last time that happens until at least the end of October.
In addition, the international market is revving up for the staggered release of Universal’s F9 as it eyes what should become the best global debut of any film yet during the pandemic.
Summer movie season has traditionally begun across North America by this point, but of course, nothing about this May (or especially last May) has been traditional. Earlier this year, studios shifted their plans (again) to allow the early-to-mid spring corridor some breathing room for the few films that would be in the market as vaccines were given time to achieve their impact as part of North America’s COVID-19 recovery.
The film industry is now firmly looking ahead to the next step in the transition back to broader moviegoing. The first phase lasted longer than many hoped, a nine-month stretch littered with uncertainty and ambiguity dating back to last August when domestic theaters initially re-opened, but that particular era will symbolically come to end after this final quiet weekend.
Consumers are progressively confident in their return to everyday norms, including 70 percent ready to go back to movie theaters, according to a research study by NRG. Additionally, Regal Cinemas — the domestic market’s second largest chain after AMC — is reopening another estimated 169 locations this weekend. Combining these factors, the stateside rebound is moving in the right direction as Paramount and Disney prepare to launch A Quiet Place Part II and Cruella in an estimated 3,700 locations each nationwide next Friday, May 21.
Of course, 70 percent confidence is not 100 percent yet, different seating capacities and restrictions remain in place across various local markets, and many outside the film industry sphere are still uncertain as to which movie theaters are open and/or if they have the kind of all-audience content that is and will be necessary for sustained recovery in the months ahead. Word of mouth, as always, will be integral in the weeks and months ahead.
No, this summer won’t look like those of yore, but even though this weekend will certainly be a slow one for movie theaters, there is plenty of reason to look ahead. A calm before the storm? Time will tell.
As this weekend goes, look for last week’s number-one title, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, to likely repeat atop the box office as it adds 185 locations to its footprint for a total of 2,996 in its sophomore frame. The franchise revival missed expectations in its $8.75 million opening, offering some possible insight into not just the state of the series itself but also the psyche of what moviegoers want to see right now. It appears set for a steep decline in its second frame — par for the course when it comes to Saw and similar genre films — but it will at least maintain most of its existing premium screen footprint to help assuage the inevitable drop.
For dark horse candidates, look to Wrath of Man for a much stronger hold in its third frame with retention of most screens and no new competition. Bleecker Street and Topic Studios will also launch Dream Horse as an under-the-radar offering at 1,256 locations, while Warner Bros. is quietly pushing Scoob! to approximately 2,300 theaters based on Showtimes Dashboard projections.
The latter was an early victim of the pandemic last year when it was transitioned to an at-home release and played only in select theaters (mostly drive-ins) during the summer. No official box office reports have been made available by the studio for the animated pic, and given their recent history of withholding certain figures during the early months of theatrical restarts, there is no certainty as to whether official box office numbers will be made available for Scoob! this weekend. As such, forecasts on that title are excluded from the chart below, but its wide availability and familiar IP make it a candidate to appear somewhere in the top ten even with virtually no promotion for this weekend’s theatrical presence.
Elsewhere, most holdovers should continue their relative stability.
This Weekend vs. Last Weekend
Boxoffice projects this weekend’s top ten will decline between 30 and 35 percent from last weekend’s $23.8 million top ten aggregate haul, attributable mostly to Spiral‘s expected sharp drop-off.
|Film||Distributor||3-Day Weekend Forecast||Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, May 23||Location Count||% Change from Last Wknd|
|Spiral: From the Book of Saw||Lionsgate||$4,000,000||$15,300,000||2,996||-54%|
|Wrath of Man||United Artists Releasing||$3,000,000||$18,900,000||3,007||-19%|
|Those Who Wish Me Dead||Warner Bros. Studios||$1,800,000||$5,500,000||~3,200||-36%|
|Raya and the Last Dragon||Walt Disney Pictures||$1,700,000||$48,400,000||2,375||-<1%|
|Godzilla vs. Kong||Warner Bros. Studios||$1,400,000||$97,000,000||~2,400||-8%|
|Demon Slayer – Kimetsu no Yaiba – the Movie: Mugen Train||Funimation||$1,300,000||$44,300,000||~1,900||-26%|
|Mortal Kombat (2021)||Warner Bros. Studios||$950,000||$41,300,000||~2,300||-29%|
|Dream Horse||Bleecker Street/Topic Studios||$800,000||$800,000||1,256||NEW|
|Finding You||Roadside Attractions||$550,000||$1,800,000||~1,370||-40%|
|Scoob! (2021 Re-Issue)||Warner Bros. Studios||n/a||n/a||~2,300||n/a|
All forecasts subject to change before the first confirmation of Friday estimates from studios and/or alternative sources.
Theater counts are updated as confirmed by studios.
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