Coronavirus not stopping drive-in movies from closing as many post best ticket sales amid outbreak: report


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Although many of the country’s movie theaters have been closed in a nationwide effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, a number of film-showing entities continue to muster through the dark times and are posting some decent gains at the box office given the circumstances.

In areas around Phoenix, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, West Palm Beach, Miami and Nashville 5,000 or so theaters had closed due to concerns surrounding the outbreak but between 79 and 135 movie theaters kept their doors open over the weekend, Deadline reported on Monday.

What’s more, the outlet said, is that although it was only able to obtain weekend data for just four titles — “Onward,” “The Invisible Man,” “Bloodshot” and “Call of the Wild” — the data showed that all of the movies had decent turnouts over the weekend, with much of the credit being given to drive-in theaters.

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Viewers in parked cars watch the animated film "Onward" at the Paramount Drive-In Theatres, Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Paramount, Calif. The drive-in theater, long a dwindling nostalgia act in a multiplex world, is experiencing a momentary return to prominence. With nearly all of the nation’s movie theaters shuttered due to the pandemic, some drive-in owners think they’re in a unique position to give moviegoers a chance to do something out of the house but stay within prudent distance from one another. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Viewers in parked cars watch the animated film “Onward” at the Paramount Drive-In Theatres, Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Paramount, Calif. The drive-in theater, long a dwindling nostalgia act in a multiplex world, is experiencing a momentary return to prominence. With nearly all of the nation’s movie theaters shuttered due to the pandemic, some drive-in owners think they’re in a unique position to give moviegoers a chance to do something out of the house but stay within prudent distance from one another. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

To start, Deadline said that of the Top 30 grossing theaters that showed “Onward” over the weekend, all but five were listed as drive-ins. The trend continued for “Invisible Man,” which saw 20 out of its 30 theaters turning a profit from drive-ins, while the Harrison Ford-driven CGI adventure flick “Call of the Wild” saw half of its 30 theaters earning money, and “Bloodshot” barely pulling the rear with 14 of its 30 theaters getting lucky.

While none of the titles broke the bank at the ticket booth, “Onward” raking in the most with just $71,000 at 135 locations — a -99 percent dip from last weekend’s $10.6M —  a similar trend is also shown for the other films.

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The film and entertainment industries have been ravaged by the spread of COVID-19 and a recent surge in confirmed cases forced California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday evening to issue a “statewide order” for its some 40 million residents to “stay at home,” which extended to theaters, bars, salons and local health clubs.

The order to stay also applied to drive-in theaters in the Los Angeles area like the one in nearby Paramount, which, per Deadline, did not appear to be open over the weekend, compared to last week where moviegoers were social distancing themselves in their vehicles while seeing “Onward.”

Last week, the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), a theater trade group consisting of the top 10 theater chains in the U.S. requested a bailout from the federal government to help them through the “unprecedented challenge” that makes the industry as a whole “uniquely vulnerable” to the ongoing crisis.

“This is an unprecedented challenge to the business,” said John Fithian, president and chief executive of NATO. “We’re looking to Congress and White House to understand this is a cultural institution where people gather.”

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Though Fithian didn’t specify a dollar amount, he maintained that theaters could be saved for a fraction of what the airline industry had requested from the government, which the White House proposed to be around $50 billion.

For less than the cost of one airline company, all theaters in the association could be saved, Fithian said.

Viewers in a parked car watch the animated film "Onward" at the Paramount Drive-In Theatres, Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Paramount, Calif. The drive-in theater, long a dwindling nostalgia act in a multiplex world, is experiencing a momentary return to prominence. With nearly all of the nation’s movie theaters shuttered due to the pandemic, some drive-in owners think they’re in a unique position to give moviegoers a chance to do something out of the house but stay within prudent distance from one another. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Viewers in a parked car watch the animated film “Onward” at the Paramount Drive-In Theatres, Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Paramount, Calif. The drive-in theater, long a dwindling nostalgia act in a multiplex world, is experiencing a momentary return to prominence. With nearly all of the nation’s movie theaters shuttered due to the pandemic, some drive-in owners think they’re in a unique position to give moviegoers a chance to do something out of the house but stay within prudent distance from one another. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

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“We want our policymakers to know that at the end of this thing, when people have been cooped up in their house for several months, they’ll need a break to go out and do something collectively that’s affordable and fun and away from what they’ve just been through,” he said. “But we still need to be viable.”

Fox News’ Morgan Phillips contributed to this report.



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