Much of public life in the United States essentially ground to a halt this week. In the entertainment world, theme parks shut down, Broadway went dark, studios pulled major tentpoles from their release calendar, and virtually all Hollywood movies and TV shows halted production as coronavirus continues to rapidly spread across North America. The exhibition industry, a sector of the film business reliant on the communal experience, has been the one institution reluctant to entirely close its doors amid the ongoing public heath crisis. Prior to Friday, fears of the pandemic didn’t appear to impact moviegoing. But this weekend’s box office results show that significantly fewer people are going to their local multiplexes.
“The Hunt” came in behind fellow studio offering, “The Invisible Man,” now in its third frame. The Elisabeth Moss-led sci-fi thriller generated $6 million, enough for the No. 4 spot. So far, “The Invisible Man” has a cumulative tally of $64.4 million in the U.S. and Canada and $122 million worldwide.
Though most theaters in North America remain open to some degree, China, South Korea, Italy and other areas greatly impacted by coronavirus have either completely or partially have shuttered multiplexes for weeks. The mass closures have already resulted in billions of dollars in lost revenues.
In light of concerns over coronavirus, exhibitors in the U.S. that stayed open for business took extra precautions to increase sanitation. That included sterilizing seats, arm rests and cup holders more frequently and disinfecting all hand-contact surfaces during peak times.
Studio executives and media analysts recognize the global box office is in uncharted territory, with crucial developments unfolding at a rapid pace. By last Thursday, most major Hollywood films that were set to hit theaters over the next two months — including Disney’s “Mulan,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place Part II,” Universal’s “Fast 9” and MGM’s “No Time to Die” — had been removed from release calendars as the virus’s infection rate continues to increase. That means even if theaters do keep the lights on, the volume of content available will have dramatically shrunk. Even so, many remain optimistic that the movie business will be able to rebound. “These are unique circumstances,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution. “But without a doubt, we will get to the other side. The domestic box office will be back, just nobody has a real answer as to when.”