Disney Stops Reporting Box Office Numbers as Theaters Shut Down Because of Coronavirus

After a precipitous day-to-day drop at the domestic box office earlier this week, the Walt Disney Company will stop reporting box office numbers for the time being. With almost every theater in America closed due to restrictions on group gatherings amid the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic, the opportunity for movies to generate revenue on the big screen is extremely limited -- so much so that movies like Birds of Prey, The Hunt, and Bloodshot are being made available for rental and purchase on streaming video on demand platforms just weeks after their theatrical releases. Trolls: World Tour will have a day-and-date release, hitting streaming on the same day it was planned for a theatrical release.

Disney/Pixar's Onward, which has been the #1 performer at the domestic box office over the weekends, made $3 million and change on Monday, then dropped to $1.2 million on Tuesday, a daily drop of 59%. That's a big swing compared with last week, when the film actually earned significantly more money on Tuesday than it did on Monday before settling back to its Monday baseline for Wednesday and Thursday screenings before the weekend changed the math again.

In spite of a pretty respectable opening, it seems likely Onward will be one of the lowest-grossing offerings in Pixar's history. The studio, a reliable hit-maker for Disney, has rarely had a criticaly or box office misfire, and the films are complex and expensive to make, meaning that it's possible Onward will be a big write-down for Disney. So far, Disney has resisted turning to streaming video on demand to mitigate losses they are taking on from theater closures, although Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., and Sony Pictures Entertainment have both made announcements that will bring recent and upcomign theatrical releases to home video in the days and weeks to come.


There are a few things at work here. First of all, reporting numbers right now is pretty meaningless, as it doesn't tell us much about the state of the industry or the relative enthusiasm audiences have for a given movie relative to its competition. It is also probably damaging to studios on some level to report unnaturally low numbers, which could spook investors who are already on-edge given the poor performance of the stock market since the novel coronavirus pandemic reached US shores.

The pandemic has frozen Hollywood in its tracks, causing events, productions, and release dates to be delayed or cancelled. It is estimated that the cumulative financial impact that the novel coronavirus restrictions will have on the film and TV industry will be in the billions.

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