August 30, 2020

US/Worldwide Weekend Box Office Report – 8.30.2020


OPENINGS:  THE NEW MUTANTS (20th/TSG/Disney) was DOA long before the world was engulfed by a pandemic, repeatedly postponed as first 20th and then Disney tried to figure out what to do with it.  The only reason it’s having a theatrical release at all is that 20th’s pre-Disney co-financier TSG had the contractual right to insist on one.  The result was, to be charitable, at the low end even of reduced expectations with $7M at 2412 theaters, a $2900 per-theatre average.  (All those “best opening since the shutdown!” headlines just mean it outgrossed last week’s Unhinged.)  That includes a 21% Friday-to-Saturday drop, in line with genre movies aimed at teens.  In addition, New Mutants earned $2.9M in 10 overseas markets.  With $85M+ in production and marketing costs, the film has no chance of reaching breakeven, and Disney may well have written it down as an asset at the time of the 20th acquisition.  With it out of the way, the studio will now almost certainly proceed with its reboot of the X-Men franchise into the MCU.

BILL & TED’S FACE THE MUSIC (Orion/MGM) took in $1.1M at 1007 theatres, while also being available via VOD.  There are no numbers available for that part of its release.

In a pre-COVID world, THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD (Searchlight/Disney) would have opened initially in NY and LA, then expanded gradually with the hope of capitalizing on favorable reviews and word of mouth.  But NY and LA don’t currently exist as theatrical movie locations, so Disney threw it into 1360 theatres and hoped for the best.  They didn’t get it, instead earning just $520K, a pathetic per-theatre average of $382.

Things were generally much more promising overseas than in the US.  TENET (Warners) had its long-awaited debut in 40 overseas territories (not including China) and Canada with a solid $53M that compares to Interstellar‘s $82.9M start in 62 territories, and Dunkirk‘s $55.4M in 46 (both also didn’t include China). Note that Inception had a more gradual international release.

HOLDOVERS:  We learned something important about the US box office last week, although there seems to be little writing about it, possibly because it conflicts with the overwhelmingly cheerleading media narrative of the moment.  Speculation/hope had been that while movies would open lower due to pandemic issues both logistical (fewer markets open, limited seating) and psychological, these would be compensated by longer and steadier runs.  The theory was fed by the modest Friday-to-Saturday bump for UNHINGED (Solstice), which as we noted at the time wasn’t at all unusual for a picture targeted to older audiences.  What we discovered after Saturday was that Unhinged behaved entirely on pattern for a pre-pandemic genre opening:  down 34% on Sunday (for a $5.6M total, way below the $8M that the studio had predicted), down 72% on Monday, up 28% on Tuesday (when many theatres discount their tickets), down 27% on Wednesday, and up 3% on Thursday.  The only reason the weekend-to-weekend drop was a moderate 35% (to $2.6M) was because the film had a 28% increase in theatre count–the per-theatre drop was 45%.  Solstice had enthusiastically predicted a US total of $30M+, and now it isn’t even clear that Unhinged will reach half that number.  All of this is obviously unpromising for theatrical releases in the near term, as it seems that audiences will both remain limited and then fail to make up the difference over time.

The results were similar for WORDS ON A BATHROOM WALL (Roadside), which recorded a 5% bump in its 2nd weekend (to $450K) because its theatre count increased by 47%.  The per-theatre number dropped 28% to $334.

NEXT WEEKEND:  It’s what everyone has been waiting for, as Tenet arrives in US theatres (as well as China).  However, analysis will be tough because Warners is preceding the official Thursday night opening with 3 days of “early access” screenings starting Monday afternoon.  Much is uncertain, but we can confidently make 2 predictions:  business for the Monday screenings will be very strong, and Tuesday’s media will be filled with proclamations that “moviegoing is back!” before we see how the rest of the week will play out.  Tenet will have virtually no competition for the month of September (the biggest opening is the Gerard Butler action vehicle Greenland), so that will tell us quite a bit more about the way releases will perform over time as well.  Meanwhile, the true competition for audience eyeballs next weekend will come from Disney’s premium subscription release of MULAN, but it’s not clear how much data the studio will provide about that.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."