Liam Neeson’s thriller “Honest Thief” limped to first place at the domestic box office, debuting with $3.7 million. Those ticket sales, among the lowest ever to land at No. 1, came in slightly ahead of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” and Robert De Niro’s family comedy “War With Grandpa.”
“Tenet,” now in its seventh week of release, grossed $1.6 million, bringing its U.S. haul to $50.6 million. The sci-fi epic, from Warner Bros., continues to fare better overseas. “Tenet” generated $5 million at the international box office for a global haul of $333.9 million.
Overall, it was another quiet weekend at the weekend box office as theaters that reopened have resorted to reduce hours of operation or closing down again entirely due to low attendance. Apprehension among moviegoers, coupled with the lack of new potential blockbusters are to blame for lackluster ticket sales.
Theater owners argue that it’s not fear keeping people from going to the movies, it’s the dearth of fresh product from major studios. But Hollywood companies have been reluctant to unveil their biggest movies because cinemas in major markets like New York and Los Angeles, which account for a bulk of ticket sales for any given movie, aren’t open.
A potential bright spot: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Saturday gave movie theaters outside of the city permission to reopen at reduced capacity starting on Oct. 23. It remains to be seen whether the news will encourage studios to start unveiling major movies.
In the meantime, specialty studios such as 101 Studios and IFC Films have been supplying exhibitors with new indie dramas and comedies. “War With Grandpa” collected $2.5 million from 2,260 locations in its second weekend of release, boosting domestic receipts to $7.2 million.
“Honest Thief” has earned $4.2 million in box office receipts when including Canadian theaters.
“Moviegoers, particularly couples, came back to theatres to enjoy ‘Honest Thief’ in a theatrical environment and were rewarded with a movie rated 88% on the audience score from Rotten Tomatoes,” Tom Ortenberg, who recently relaunched Open Road with Josh Green’s Raven Capital, said in a statement.
Disney, meanwhile, continues to find modest success with re-releases of past favorites. Tim Burton’s 1993 holiday classic “The Nightmare Before Christmas” brought in $1.3 million between Friday and Sunday. And “Hocus Pocus,” another three-decade-old hit, stirred up $765,000 over the weekend.
“Well-know stars like Neeson and De Niro, and Halloween-themed classics, are drawing audiences to theaters in solid numbers considering that only 49% of theaters in North America are open and [they are] operating at limited capacity in each auditorium,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Comscore.
Romantic drama “2 Hearts,” starring Jacob Elordi of “The Kissing Booth” and “Euphoria” fame, pulled in $565,000 from 1,683 screens over the weekend.
Box office analysts suggest that YA-skewing movies, the kind that regularly populate Netflix queues, haven’t been a huge theatrical draw during the pandemic.
“Based on at least three youth-oriented movies released during the last month and a half, teens and young adults do not appear ready to return to the movies,” said David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research.
Among specialty releases, IFC Films’ comedic drama “Shithouse” opened in 28 theaters across the country and scraped together $6,750 ($241 per location). The well-reviewed movie launched simultaneously this weekend on premium video-on-demand platforms, where the studio said landed on the iTunes top 15 charts among independent offerings. “Shithouse,” the directorial debut of Cooper Raiff, premiered this year at SXSW and won the Grand Jury Prize.