What Box Office Recovery? Low Points Are Getting Lower as COVID Anxiety Grows

After big weekends for ”F9“ and ”Black Widow,“ turnout for genre films like ”Old“ and ”Snake Eyes“ seems lower than in years past

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In a normal box office, down periods are common. Some weekends will bring films with little mainstream interest or weak word-of-mouth while theaters simply wait for the next big franchise blockbuster to get business going again.

But in a theatrical market still wrestling with the effects of COVID-19, the low points are getting lower. We saw it last month when Warner Bros.’ “In the Heights” failed to become the hit many industry observers had hoped, and we’re seeing it again this weekend with the sub-$20 million debut for Universal’s “Old” and Paramount’s “Snake Eyes” while many overseas markets faced renewed pandemic regulations.

Expectations had been relatively low for both M. Night Shyamalan’s “Old” — which opened to a record-low $16.5 million for the director — while the “G.I. Joe” spinoff “Snake Eyes” managed only $13.3 million, less than half the opening weekend of the last film in the toy-based action franchise, 2013’s “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.”

COVID-19 isn’t entirely to blame for these drops. Both films have received lukewarm reception from critics and audiences. “Old” landed a 52% Rotten Tomatoes score and a C+ from CinemaScore audiences, while “Snake Eyes” has 42% and a B-. But given how Shyamalan’s previous film, “Glass,” opened to $40 million despite similar critical pans, it’s probably reasonable to assume that both films could have opened at least above $20 million in an environment where rising COVID-19 case numbers aren’t on the minds of many casual moviegoers.

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Jeremy Fuster

Box Office Reporter • jeremy.fuster@thewrap.com • Twitter: @jeremyfuster