It’s not a good time for anyone thanks to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. One of the industries being hit hardest is movie theaters and the various studios who gives them content. This past week, with pretty much every major movie theater closed around the country, the box office made history it had not made in over 26 years.
The American box office saw a zero-dollar tally for the weekend ending on March 20. All of the major studios have said that it doesn’t make sense to report ticket sales to data-reporting specialist Comscore while most of the theaters are closed, resulting in Comscore withholding its silver screen analysis for the week. This is the first time in 26 years the box office report has come up blank.
With many people under strict quarantine, many major studios have shifted their films which were in theaters to VOD and digital purchases. Both Disney and Comcast have withdrawn their ticket sales data until the COVID-19 crisis has ended.
It’s true that a few hundred screens remain open, managed by local businesses rather than nationwide chains. But it makes sense to ease up on ticket-sale reports when 96% of the industry closes down.
The last zero-dollar ticket sales report came in the winter of 1994, when the magnitude 6.7 earthquake in Northridge, California, brought all of Hollywood to a halt for a single week.
Comscore will monitor the situation and get back to its normal reporting schedule once the studios and theater chains agree to restart the halted release schedule. That, in turn, will depend on how long the coronavirus pandemic blankets the country in lockdown orders and social distancing policies. You should expect the box-office figures to stay dark for several weeks.