SUNDAY AM UPDATE, refresh for chart and more analysis: The weekend before Thanksgiving is one of the most lucrative ones on the calendar, last year bringing in $204.9M off the opening of Disney’s Frozen II which posted November’s fifth best domestic opening of all-time at $130.3M.
Who would ever think that the domestic box office would sink to such an atrocious level as this weekend. If last weekend brought in $10M for all titles with California theaters, and other markets like Illinois open, this weekend is surely the lowest weekend for exhibition since theaters reopened back in September for Tenet with an estimated $6M, a 40% drop. At that level, how can a circuit like AMC, which has a weekly burn rate of $25M, stay open? It’s hard times.
There was only one wide release this past weekend, and it wasn’t from a major studio rather Gravitas Ventures, which is known for its theatrical day and date PVOD titles, with the Jackie Chan feature Vanguard. It fizzled in the No. 7 spot with roughly $340K at 1,376 theaters in what I’m told is a 90-day theatrical window (distributor will be reporting soon). Universal/Blumhouse’s Freaky led the box office in its second weekend with $1.2M, -65% for a running $5.6M. It is a time for victory laps and bragging. Around the world, Freaky stands at $9.2M. Yikes.
As much as exhibition praised Warner Bros. recently for its cannibalistic Christmas Day release of Wonder Woman 1984 on theaters and HBO Max, even if the DC sequel didn’t have have the HBO Max component, that movie alone couldn’t save the domestic box office during COVID-19 as we’re operating in a marketplace where several cities are off line or curbed by local curfews. Last weekend distribution sources tell me that 3,400 cinemas were open, and now there’s only 2,850 with most of California closed, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Minnesota, Florida, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and New Mexico; Oy.
Here in upper Los Angeles County where more lockdowns are being threatened by the government, people are rushing out to grab whatever they can for Thanksgiving. With all the traffic and filled parking spaces, one wouldn’t think that there’s a pandemic going on except for the fact that we’re wearing masks and lining up to get in at Trader Joe’s. Even if movie theaters were open, no one would go. It’s interesting because there’s a hypocrisy in place among people. People will head to Target, Wal-Mart, the grocery store — even airports (and you can imagine what the next month is going to be like at major hubs), but the movies, wherever they’re open, are just not in the cards for people. Yes, part of that is lack of product, or they’re not aware their movie theater is open, but no one wants to go to the cinema during a pandemic.
Because of these dynamics, studios have cut down their spending to promote their movies. According to iSpot TV spending of late, Universal spent roughly $8M on Freaky and Focus Features’ Let Him Go as of Thursday. However, I’m told and iSpot even shows, that Uni has shelled out $19M+ for its Wednesday release of The Croods: A New Age, which is a 30-day play before Christmas PVOD drop. Even with that type of financial commitment, which is low by normal marketplace standards, what can anyone expect with a majority of the country’s theaters closed down?
The TV spend on Vanguard didn’t even register on iSpot, however, Gravitas reports they’ve taken out TV spots on linear cable targeting Men 18-49 across sports and entertainment networks from Nov. 14-18, i.e. ESPN, Adult Swim, FX, FXX, Fox Sports, History, Paramount Network, NBC Sports, the NFL Network TNT, and TBS. Also there were non-skippable ads for the Stanley Tong-directed and written action pic on smart TV and OTT devices like Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Hulu, Sling, AT&T TV now and tuboTV.
On digital, there was a Vanguard ad on TikTok promoting Chan’s Nov. 19 fan event. There were ads on Spotify targeting the pic’s older male demo. 30-second spots were also taken on streaming and nationally syndicated radio, in the latter sector hitting such shows as NFL Sunday Night, NCAA Football, Bob & Tom, Free Beer and Hot Wings, and Westwood One’s Rock Reach network of 435 stations.
Gravitas acquired Vanguard in collaboration with Lionsgate on The Secret: Dare to Dream earlier this summer in a seven figure deal. The Chan movie, even in his homeland China market, didn’t set his fans on fire, grossing only $43.9M in the PRC, which is 88% of the film’s global $49.65M box office to date.