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AMC Merchant's Crossing reopened in late August following its closure in March due to the pandemic. (Credit: WINK News)

Here’s how badly coronavirus has decimated the box office

The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the 2020 North America box office, but just how awful is it?

Simply put, it’s, really, really bad.

According to Comscore, the 2020 domestic box office has brought in just $2 billion this year. That may sound like a lot of money considering that the pandemic has kept movie theaters shuttered for months — but it’s a whopping 76% drop from the same point last year.

“2020 at the box office will be known as the ‘year of the asterisk,’ with virtually every known measure and metric for box office performance being completely rethought and recalibrated,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, told CNN Business.

The numbers paint a stark picture of how hard the outbreak has hit the US box office, which brought in nearly $11.5 billion in total last year. And they show how difficult it will be for the industry to bounce back.

The year got off to a good start with Sony’s “Bad Boys for Life” and Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog,” bringing in surprisingly strong results at the box office. Ultimately they became the two highest-grossing films of 2020, bringing in $206 million and $146 million respectively — solid numbers, but considerably less than the top films brought in recent years.

It’s a sharp reversal from the outlook in February, when the box office was up roughly 5.4% after the first two months of 2019. That was a promising start to what was already a tough comparison given that last year brought major blockbusters like “Avengers: Endgame,” “Joker” and “The Lion King.”

Then the coronavirus happened.

“The box office was off to a pedal-to-the-metal start,” Dergarabedian said. “Then, through really no fault of its own, the engine blew up and it had to pull out of the race.”

That engine hasn’t exactly kicked into high gear since. Theaters reopened in the late summer with new safety protocols and health measures, but audiences stayed away as coronavirus cases continued to spread.

With the box office bringing in anemic returns, studios delayed the big films set for this year or sidestepped a theater premiere entirely. Disney, for example, pushed Marvel’s “Black Widow” to next year and sent Pixar’s “Soul” to Disney+. Other films, like the next James Bond installment, “No Time to Die,” were shunted to 2021.

The absence of movies and audiences led Cineworld Group, the owner of Regal Cinemas, to suspend operations at all its theaters in the United States. Other major theater chains continue to stay open, at least for now, but the outlook for the rest of 2020 looks grim.

AMC, the world’s largest theater chain, said Tuesday that its existing cash resources would be “largely depleted” by the end of 2020 or early 2021. And even though one of the biggest films of the year, Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman 1984,” is still set to open at Christmas, there’s no guarantee that it will.

“This has been an incredibly challenging and tragic year on so many fronts,” Dergarabedian said. “And one of America’s favorite pastimes was especially hit hard.”

Author: Frank Pallotta, CNN Business
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