Movie Industry Facing Lowest Numbers In Over 20 Years Amid COVID-19

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The box office is looking at its worst year since 1998 and is anticipated to make 40 percent less than 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report from CNBC Monday (April 13).

With movie theaters closed until further notice and studios sidelining blockbusters until 2021, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said he anticipates 2020 box offices will reach roughly $6.6 billion. In 1998, movie ticket sales were reported at $6.7 billion.

“Our estimates reflect our opinion that most theaters will remain closed domestically well into June, with a slow recovery over the balance of the year,” Pachter told CNBC. “We expect some regions to remain closed for several months.”

Box office sales totaled $1.79 billion from January through March 2020, which reflects a 25 percent decline from the same period in 2019.

Restrictions due to the coronavirus prompted studios to take another look at when films would be distributed. For example, Disney’s “Mulan” is now scheduled for release on July 24 when it was previously slated for release last month. “Jungle Cruise,” originally scheduled for release this summer, is now coming to theaters in July 2021. In addition, all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are being re-scheduled.

Some 17 movies previously scheduled for release do not yet have a new date, Pachter said.

Marcus Theaters has seen shares drop 5 percent, and Cinemark shares were down over 8 percent. AMC dropped 17 percent, and its shares have lost more than 70 percent of their value since the start of the year. The company is reportedly in bankruptcy talks.

The coronavirus hit the entertainment industry hard as television shows and films have stopped production, theatrical releases have been delayed, and movie theaters remain closed. The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) is asking Congress to provide relief measures for its 150,000 employees.

“The business model of the movie theater industry is uniquely vulnerable in the present crisis,” NATO said in a March statement.

Even if federal and state officials give U.S. consumers the all-clear to resume normal activities, it’s not clear when people will really do so. A recent PYMNTS survey found that 71 percent of consumers won’t get back to their usual activities until there’s a coronavirus vaccine available. To read more of our surveys on consumer and business attitudes about the pandemic, click here.