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China rules 2020 box office as ‘Honest Thief’ tops with under $4 million

china rules global box office as honest thief tops 2020 image

China has overtaken the North American grasp on the 2020 movie box office as it nearly shits $2 billion, passing the United States total of $1.937. With coronavirus hitting a third wave in America, you can expect that gap to widen quite a bit by December.

It’s long been predicted that China would one day take over the global box office charts, but it’s still a surprise as America has always been the tops when it came to the film industry. Since the dawn of the motion picture business, it has always ruled the roost. One pandemic changed all of that.

Under $4 Million Winner

Just the fact that Liam Neeson’s thriller “Honest Thief” stole the top spot at the box office with less than $4 million in yet another quiet weekend of moviegoing speaks volumes of where the movie industry stands. It also shows the difference the two countries have taken in containing COVID-19. Remember, when $40 million or less was considered just okay for a film? Last weekend saw “The War with Grandpa” top out at $3.61 million so expect things to continue dwindling. After the latest James Bond “No Time To Die” pushed off until 2021, don’t be surprised to see Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman 1984” do the same.

The Open Roads Films movie brought in $3.7 million in North America the weekend of its U.S. debut. The film, starring Neeson as a notorious bank robber who turns himself in but was double crossed by two FBI agents, opened in Canada last week.

The film also played well in markets including Miami, Chicago, San Diego and Atlanta, according to the studio.

“Honest Thief” overtook “The War with Grandpa,” which claimed No. 1 last week. Despite coming in second, the comedy starring Robert De Niro earned $2.5 million. It has garnered $7.3 million domestically within a 10-day timespan.

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Tenet Hits $50.6 Million

Christopher Nolan’s “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.

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. 

“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 Success

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.

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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.

North America Box Office

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Box office number courtesy of Box Office Mojo.

1. “Honest Thief,” $3.7 million.

2. “The War with Grandpa,” $2.5 million.

3. “Tenet,” $1.6 million.

4. “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” $1.3 million.

5. “Hocus Pocus,” $756,000.

6. “2 Hearts,” $565,000.

7. “The New Mutants,” $465,000.

8. “Unhinged,” $425,000.

9. “Love and Monsters,” $255,000.

10. “The Kid Detective,” $135,000.