The popcorn is popped and the doors have reopened at theaters in Los Angeles for the first weekend in a year, giving Hollywood some confidence that movie-going is bouncing back.
Major studios are still waiting to see just how eager people are to return to cinemas. The top movie this weekend is still
Walt Disney Co.s Raya and the Last Dragon, an animated film that was released two weeks ago and is also available to at-home audiences for $30 on the Disney+ streaming service.
Still, a year after a near-total shutdown of the business, the industry is looking like its closer to a strong return. After Los Angeles theaters were allowed to open on March 15, every major market in the U.S. is now back in business, and so far studios are sticking to their 2021 release dates. That will bring a major backlog of potential new blockbusters later in the year.
People wearing protective masks stand in line to buy tickets at an AMC movie theater in Los Angeles, California on March 15.
With more movie theaters open and vaccinations helping to rebuild consumer confidence, studios have also shown signs of their renewed confidence, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst at
Theaters that have opened are limiting how many people they seat. In New York and Los Angeles, auditoriums are only allowed to reach 25% capacity. Some chains have yet to fully reopen, with the lack of new films and seating limits making it too expensive to operate some locations. Regal Theatres, the second-largest chain in the U.S., is still temporarily closed.
Studios, meanwhile, remain wary of putting out big films without including a streaming option. The only new wide release this weekend is The Courier, a Cold War spy drama starring
Benedict Cumberbatch from Roadside Attractions and
Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. The movie came in at No. 3, generating $2 million sales that exceeded Boxoffice Pros
estimate of $1.85 million.
Family movies from earlier this year are still taking the top two spots. Raya made a higher-than-expected $5.15 million in domestic sales over the weekend, while the Warner Bros. classic cartoon-based film Tom & Jerry brought in $3.84 million, also beating Boxoffice Pros estimate.
With assistance by Yueqi Yang
(Updates with weekend box office numbers.)
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