Would audiences pay to see a new movie in theaters if they could watch the same title at home from the comfort of their couch? Prior to the pandemic, the response from theater operators and cinema purists would have been a resounding “no.”
Yet Hollywood is finding that, at least while a plague of Biblical proportion rages, the answer is: sorta.
“The Little Things,” a crime thriller starring Denzel Washington and Rami Malek, topped domestic box office charts, debuting to $4.8 million. In normal times, those ticket sales would spell disaster but today, it actually ranks as one of the stronger COVID-era opening weekends. At the same time, it was available to HBO Max subscribers. “The Little Things” is one of 17 movies from Warner Bros. that will premiere simultaneously in movie theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service.
Though Warner Bros. and its parent company WarnerMedia declined to share tangible streaming statistics, it said “The Little Things” “shot up to No. 1” on HBO Max. It’s unclear what that benchmark means.
“We are absolutely thrilled by how Warner Bros.’ ‘The Little Things’ is performing on HBO Max — it immediately shot up to number one, where it currently remains,” said HBO Max executive VP and general manager Andy Forssell. “Following the breakthrough success of ‘Wonder Woman 1984,’ ‘The Little Things’ shows the insatiable appetite our audience has for high quality, feature films.”
Still, these are bleak times for movie theater operators. Any film exhibitors hoping that ticket sales could return to pre-pandemic levels in 2021 were stymied by another round of release date delays. Earlier in January, MGM postponed the James Bond sequel “No Time to Die” from April to October. That prompted rival studios to once again push the release dates for their films scheduled for early 2021, such as “Morbius,” “Ghostbusters Afterlife,” “Cinderella,” and “A Quiet Place Part II.” It’s also widely expected that Universal will delay “Fast & Furious” installment “F9” (set for May 28) and Disney may bump the Marvel adventure “Black Widow” (set for May 7), which would clear the film calendar until at least June. Should that come to pass, it would be devastating to those in the business of showing movies on the big screen. By summer, it’ll have been over a year since theaters have operated at normal levels. Most U.S. venues have already gone 10 months without much — if any — revenue.
In second place, Universal and DreamWorks Animation’s “The Croods: A New Age” collected $1.84 million in its 10th week of release, boosting its domestic tally to $43.9 million. Those ticket sales represent a 2% increase from last weekend, which is impressive because the animated family film has been available to rent on home entertainment for almost two months. Overseas, “The Croods” sequel made $1.3 million, bringing it past the $100 million mark for a global total of $144.38 million.
“Wonder Woman 1984” came in third place with $1.3 million. The Warner Bros. superhero adaptation, which premiered concurrently on HBO Max, has brought in $39.2 million after six weeks in North American theaters. To illustrate how depreciated the box office is, the original “Wonder Woman” grossed $38 million in its first day in theaters in 2017.
Liam Neeson’s action thriller “The Marksman” plunged to the No. 4 spot after leading the box office the last two weekends. It made $1.25 million in its third outing for a domestic tally of $7.8 million.
Rounding out the top five was Sony’s “Monster Hunter” with $740,000 in its seventh week of release. The film, an adaptation of a popular video game, has generated $11.1 million to date.
At the indie box office, Bleecker Street’s drama “Supernova” opened with $98,670 from 330 screens for a bleak $299 per-screen-average. Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth star in the emotional film about a longtime couple who find a way to cope after one is diagnosed with early onset dementia. It’s gotten strong reviews (Variety’s critic Guy Lodge called it “delicately heart-crushing”), yet the film’s target audience of older adults is one that’s been especially reluctant to return to the movies.
More to come…