The box office is not roaring back to life this weekend so much as it has gone from a limp to a hobble in the midst of a pandemic. Theaters continue to reopen around the country, but they are far from back to full steam. Less than 50 percent of AMC theaters are open around the country, while only 55 percent of Regal theaters are back in business, and even in the theaters where the doors have been unlocked, capacity is only around 30 percent. Moreover, theaters have not reopened in the two biggest markets, Los Angeles and New York City.
With all that said, it appears that Disney’s New Mutants will earn around $7 million this weekend. It’s hard to put that into perspective because we don’t have much to which to compare (because we’ve never before dealt with a pandemic at the box office). Moreover, New Mutants, which comes from director Josh Boone (Fault in Our Stars), has been delayed several times, and Disney all but dumped it after inheriting it in the acquisition of 20th Century Fox (thereby reverting the characters back to Marvel). Because streaming rights had already been licensed away, and because they were contractually required to give it a theatrical release, Disney couldn’t even release it on Disney+ or Hulu, so the studio basically dumped it in the middle of a pandemic and hoped for the best.
Honestly, I’m not sure that New Mutants would have made that much more in normal times against heavier competition. Reviews have not been great (29 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), and audiences who braved a pandemic haven’t been particularly impressed, either (it has a 52 percent RT audience score). Maybe $7 million is as good as one might expect from a $67 million film with poor reviews that was delayed over two years and given a half-hearted release by a studio that didn’t produce it. It’s hard to say how much the film will ultimately make in the end. Will it be cast out of theaters to make way for Tenet, or with nothing else out, will it continue to hang on to screens and scrape together several more million dollars?
It’s almost impossible to predict.
That goes for the rest of the box office, too. Russell Crowe’s Unhinged, for instance, continues to do OK during a pandemic with $2.6 million for a total of $8.8million, although it appears that most of its grosses are coming from drive-in theaters. That makes perfect sense for a film about road rage.
Bill & Ted Face the Music, meanwhile, strolls in with $1 million, and while that doesn’t sound particularly impressive — even in a pandemic — it was also released on PVOD, and we honestly have no idea how much it has earned in that format. It’s the top film on iTunes, and it is doing very well with both critics (81 percent on RT) and audiences (82 percent on RT), so hopefully the long-awaited sequel will translate into a tidy profit for Orion Pictures.
One pic we know for sure did poorly is Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield . The Fox Searchlight period comedy only earned $170,000 in 1,360 cinemas. The film has gotten spectacular reviews (93 percent on RT), but the audience for this is probably one of the least likely of the demographics to attend theaters in person. I’m not sure why Fox Searchlight did not release it simultaneously on PVOD, but hopefully, that will follow soon behind, because there’s a lot of folks who would love to see the Dev Patel film but are not keen to do so in a theater.
Next weekend we’ll get a much better idea about whether it’s financially worth it to keep theaters open through the fall, as Christopher Nolan’s Tenet finally opens in the United States. It’s doing very well overseas, so far, as it’s done approximately $40 million in business this weekend in the countries in which it has opened. Given the state of the world, that’s a pretty solid number. We’ll see if it can duplicate it stateside.