American Box Office Hits Zero for First Time Ever

The movie theater industry has already seen major changes to its standard operating procedure in [...]

The movie theater industry has already seen major changes to its standard operating procedure in the United States due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Many theaters have already closed their doors, some for as long as twelve weeks and maybe even longer, but this weekend saw perhaps the biggest milestone in terms of reporting for the theater industry, a total of zero for the entire weekend box office. As outlined by The Hollywood Reporter and The LA Times, this past weekend marked the first time that there was no official reporting on the weekend box office numbers since 1994 when the Northridge, CA earthquakes in January of that year delayed reporting.

It's worth noting that that weekend in 1994 still saw people around the country going to the movies, but that reporting on the numbers themselves were delayed; this weekend there were no numbers to report at all. Now that's not to say that there aren't some theaters that didn't stay open over the weekend and still make some money, but none of the major studios in Hollywood reported their official numbers and Comscore didn't publish a full breakdown of the weekend for the press. So whatever box office receipts were printed over the weekend were likely negligible at best and officially it's as if the weekend never happened in terms of box office. We may never know what numbers, if any, happened over this past weekend.

According to Box Office Mojo, the final day that box office numbers were reported was Thursday, March 19. With a total of $143,641 for all 36 feature films in release across the entire country where just 233 theaters were open for business, it marks perhaps the lowest single day in modern box office reporting and the lowest single day since October 17, 2001 (one month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks) which brought in $150,025 total.

Now the previous weekend of March 13 to 15 remains the final domestic box office weekend for 2020 which brought in $49.58 million, the lowest weekend since September 15 to 17 in 2000 which brought in $34.7 million twenty years ago. The American theater business is very much in "wait and see" mode, as it's unclear how long large venues will be closed and how much movie goers will be willing to spend on time spent in rooms with a lot of strangers after the coronavirus outbreak. New feature films scheduled to be released in the US have already been delayed indefinitely which could be good for the studios' bottom line in the end.