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  • Writer's pictureThomas Bonifield

Box Office Cataclysm

The coronavirus blows a giant hole in first quarter revenue in North America.

An empty ticket office at a Phoenix-area movie theater temporarily closed because of the coronavirus.

As of this writing, the illness has claimed more than 5,000 lives in the US, 49,000 globally and sickened nearly one million people. It has also touched off a cascade of economic misery, prompting a staggering 10 million people to file unemployment claims in America alone over the last two weeks.

And it's easy to understand why. First there was so-called social distancing, followed by shut-down orders for non-essential businesses and, finally, stay-at-home laws across much of the country, all of which have slammed the brakes on the economy. That hit the movie industry hard, both stopping current TV and film productions and closing theaters nationwide.

A closure notice posted at a Phoenix-area movie theater.

Now first quarter domestic box office numbers are in and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, they paint an ugly picture: total gross revenue in North America is down $600 million compared to the first three months of 2019. That's a 25% drop and comes despite a strong start to this year, with January revenue coming in at $912 million, a 12% increase from the previous year.

Two Christian films have been affected, with I Still Believe, from the brother duo of Andrew and Jon Erwin, going to home entertainment just two weeks after the start of its theatrical run, as we wrote here, and I am Patrick, a docudrama from the Christian Broadcasting Network, scrapping its theatrical release altogether. On demand and DVD/Blu-ray sales of those films will help some, but they certainly will not make up for all the lost box office revenue.

Industry experts speculate that American movie theaters will remain closed through mid-May or early June, and since no other faith-based movies are scheduled to release on the near horizon, perhaps filmmakers working in the genre will avoid the worst of this. Christian Film Blog will monitor the situation and keep you abreast of developments.


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