Hit by virus fears, N. America box office nears 20-year low

Sonic the Hedgehog topped the North American box office this week. © Paramount Pictures

Under the shadow of the coronavirus outbreak, the North American box office had its lowest weekend ticket sales in two decades as viewers stayed home and some theatres limited their capacities to ensure patrons could sit near empty seats, industry watchers said.

Pixar/Disney’s animated film “Onward” retained the top spot for the second week, but saw estimated ticket sales for the Friday-to-Sunday period plummet from last week’s US$39 million to just US$10.5 million, Exhibitor Relations reported Sunday.

Overall, the box office appeared to be at a 20-year low of around US$55 million, a figure even lower than the first two weekends after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, according to the Hollywood Reporter website.

It quoted one executive as estimating that 100 of North America’s 5,000 theatres had closed completely, with others likely to follow.

In second spot for the weekend was new Lionsgate film “I Still Believe,” at US$9.5 million. The cast of the Christian romantic drama includes country singer Shania Twain.

Third spot went to another new release, Sony’s “Bloodshot,” a superhero film starring Vin Diesel. It took in an estimated US$9.3 million.

Universal’s thriller “The Invisible Man” placed fourth, at US$6 million. It stars Elisabeth Moss as the former girlfriend of a man who returns to haunt her after supposedly committing suicide.

And in fifth spot was another new film, Universal’s thriller “The Hunt,” at US$5.3 million. Hilary Swank and Betty Gilpin are among the stars in a tale of a dozen strangers who find themselves being pursued, as a sport, by a group of wealthy hunters.

Rounding out the top 10 were:

  • “Sonic the Hedgehog” (US$2.6 million)
  • “The Way Back” (US$2.4 million)
  • “The Call of the Wild” (US$2.2 million)
  • “Emma” (US$1.4 million)
  • “Bad Boys for Life” (US$1.1 million)