The Spool / Box Office Report
Box Office: “Onward” Tops A Sickly Weekend Amid Coronavirus Concerns
The temporary shutdown of public life that's happening amid global coronavirus conditions has led to a standstill at the box office.
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The temporary shutdown of public life that’s happening amid global coronavirus conditions has led to a standstill at the box office.

As we all stay inside our homes and practice Social Distancing to discourage the spread of the Coronavirus, theatrical moviegoing absolutely tanked. Who wants to go out into a crowd of strangers in the middle of all of this? Claiming a movie to be the “victor” in the middle of all of this is like trying to find the hottest snowflake, but the number one movie in America this weekend was Onward, which had a gargantuan plunge from last weekend in the form of a massive 73% drop, by far the largest second-weekend decline for a PIXAR title.

Grossing just $10.5 million this weekend, Onward has grossed $60.3 million after ten days of release. This fantasy feature is guaranteed to become the only PIXAR movie to miss $100 million domestically. In any other circumstances, this would make Onward a historic box office bomb. While it’ll still be a money-loser for Disney/PIXAR, more than a bit of grace can be extended towards Onward’s box office reputation considering the external conditions it’s facing. Of course, it’ll miss $100 million domestically when families are being (correctly) instructed by the government to stay indoors for the good of their health.

Onward was the only movie this weekend to gross over $10 million domestically, a testament to how badly both newcomers and holdovers were hit by the Coronavirus. The second-biggest of all releases this weekend was I Still Believe. This Christian music biopic opened to $9.5 million this weekend, a significant 44% decline from the $17.1 million opening weekend of the last movie from its directors, I Can Only Imagine

Again, a little mercy can be extended here considering I Still Believe likely would have performed better without a pandemic keeping people in their homes. At least this film likely wasn’t expensive to make and it’d be ludicrous to expect every movie from this directorial duo to perform as well as a massive sleeper hit like I Can Only Imagine. However, given that it doesn’t look like the Coronavirus isn’t going anywhere, don’t expect I Still Believe to perform like past Springtime Christian movie fare like God’s Not Dead and The Shack and hold well in the weeks to come.

While Onward and I Still Believe’s weak performances can be somewhat excused by the Coronavirus, the same cannot be said for Bloodshot, whose opening weekend was bad no matter how you slice it. Opening to $9.3 million this frame, this was one of Vin Diesel’s lowest opening weekends as a leading man, coming in just $100,000 behind the debut of his August 2008 box office dud Babylon A.D

Even if there was no health crisis keeping people at home, Bloodshot’s generic marketing, which made the project look like a cross between the 2014 RoboCop movie and a 2003 superhero movie, wasn’t going to entice anybody to come out to see it. The fact that Diesel just isn’t much of a box office draw when he isn’t either Dominic Toretto or a tree didn’t help matters. Sorry Sony/Columbia, I just don’t see that Valiant Comics Cinematic Universe that Bloodshot was supposed to kick off happening any time soon.

The honor of smallest weekend-to-weekend drop in the top ten goes to The Invisible Man, which dropped 60% this frame. Invisible Man took in another $6 million this weekend for a domestic total of $64.4 million. It’s impossible to tell how holdovers are going to hold on in the next few weeks but it looks like this horror movie hit is headed for a domestic total in the $75-80 million range.

The Hunt finally premiered in theaters this past weekend. After drumming up all kinds of conversation this past August, The Hunt ended up being the last thing anyone was talking about thanks to the Coronavirus. Universal did try some clever marketing tactics to get people talking about The Hunt, including a marketing campaign that used a poster referencing how the release date had been delayed six months. However, such promotional maneuvers couldn’t save The Hunt as it had a terrible $5 million opening, the fifth-worst opening weekend ever for a movie opening in over 3,000 locations. 

It is perplexing that Universal/Blumhouse was always so high on The Hunt (why else would the film get a $15 million budget, a significantly higher price tag than usual Blumhouse fare?) given that it’s the kind of fare that doesn’t typically make major waves in theatrical cinema. Dark comedies that aren’t the first Horrible Bosses movie tend to struggle at the box office while more pressingly, at least as it was presented in the trailers and TV spots, the basic premise looked all too derivative. 

Despite all the Fox News hullabaloo, the problem with The Hunt (beyond the Coronavirus outbreak) wasn’t that it was too challenging or divisive but rather that its marketing made it look like a low-budget Hunger Games knock-off starring adults. It’s hard to take a film selling itself as “daring” or “provocative” seriously when its ads make it look like it’s old hat. 

Now we move fully onto holdovers, all of which suffered extreme drops this weekend, including Sonic the Hedgehog, which collapsed to the tune of 67% for a fifth-weekend haul of $2.5 million. That was still enough for Sonic to hit $145.8 million, in the process surpassing Pokemon: Detective Pikachu to become the biggest video game of all-time domestically. 

Next up we have The Way Back, which plummeted 70% in its second weekend of release, scoring only $2.4 million for a ten-day domestic total of $13.4 million. Dogs may be immune to the Coronavirus but the CGI doggo that stars in Call of the Wild certainly got hit hard by the disease. Call of the Wild fell 67% this frame and grossed an additional $2.2 million for a domestic haul of $62.1 million.

After a solid wide release bow last weekend, Emma. fell 71% this weekend to gross only $1.3 million for a $10 million domestic gross. The Coronavirus finally inspired Bad Boys for Life to have a sizable weekend-to-weekend drop as it fell off 64% from last weekend. Grossing another $1.1 million, Bad Boys now has a $204.2 million domestic cume. Birds of Prey dropped 74% this weekend to gross another $555,000 for an $84 million domestic total while Jumanji: The Next Level fell 68% for a fourteenth-weekend sum of $420,000 and a domestic gross of $316.7 million.

Even Portrait of a Lady on Fire wasn’t to the sinking box office as it dropped a steep 66% this weekend, taking in another $178,420 in the process for a $3.7 million domestic gross. It was a brutal weekend for limited release all around, including Burden, which expanded into 109 locations in its third weekend of release but grossed just $46,536 for a per-theater average of $427 and a domestic gross of $133,922.

Wendy fared even worse as it expanded into 165 locations and grossed $44,000 for a disastrous per-theater average of $267 for a domestic gross of $142,367.  Heart of Africa opened in 20 locations and grossed just $24,175 for a per-theater average of $1,209 while Never Rarely Sometimes Always opened to only $18,000 from 4 theaters for a per-theater average of $4,500. The Roads Not Taken opened to just $3,853 from 3 locations for a per-theater average of $1,284.

The top ten movies this weekend grossed about $52 million, the lowest eleventh-weekend in any given year since 1996. Per Deadline, this was the worst box office weekend since the second weekend of September 1998 when Rounders topped all releases while around 109 movie theaters have closed their doors. That figure includes 25 that shut down overnight between March 14 and March 15. The rapid closure of movie theaters, as well as the complete lack of new wide releases over the next three weeks, means the domestic box office is basically at a standstill thanks to the coronavirus.