The Killing of Box Office Reporting in the Time of Corona

Will Corona erase fascination with movie earnings?

Sundays are days when box office reporters access Rentrak dashboards to tally weekend openings. These reporters schedule calls with distribution executives to talk weekend openings and financial successes and failures for studio movies and art-house releases.

I know this as someone who worked as a box office columnist.

That’s before the spread of COVID-19 and the closing of 5,400-plus cinemas in the United States due to social distancing and shelter at home policies.

Three of the nation’s largest theater chains, AMC, Regal, and Cinemark, are closing their doors for as many as twelve weeks in the time of Corona. Current movies Trolls World Tour, The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma are shifting to on-demand platforms. Anticipated blockbusters Black Widow, No Time to Die, and Mulan face postponement.

There’s no box office news to report during Corona. After Corona, will audiences resume their fixation on movie earnings, or, will Corona kill weekly box office charts?

I still remember colleagues jokingly calling me a “Box Office Guru” because of all the time spent pouring over box office details. I remember being criticized by a specialty movie executive for being part of the “problem” and persuading moviegoers to evaluate art-house movies based on their earnings, just like Hollywood blockbusters.

Entertainment biz priorities in the time of Corona include virtual pitch meetings, restarting productions, reopening theaters, and inspiring audiences to buy tickets. Saving entertainment jobs is a priority. Advocating for federal help for cinemas is crucial.

Yet, the Killing of Box Office Reporting in the Time of Corona offers a chance to forgo the numbers side of movie releases and focus on audience likes, preferences, and recommendations.

It’s a chance at systems change in terms of measuring box office mojo. It’s an opportunity to rate opening weekend success by reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations over box office revenue.

Imagine the movie business after Corona without the weekend’s top-earning movies being an evening news fixture. Consider a new chapter where moviegoers look at the opinions of other audiences instead of the financial successes and failures of movies big and small. Entertainment companies will continue to focus on earnings to make release decisions. Over the next three months, the average movie fan may learn to live without weekend box office charts.

Corona may kill box office reporting. Let’s use the time to design and implement a substitute.

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