Superhero thriller "The New Mutants," one of the first major movies to open since coronavirus forced theaters to close in March, launched to $7 million over the weekend. Though ticket sales were on the lower end of expectations, the Disney and 20th Century Studios title marks the biggest debut yet for a new release during the pandemic.
Around 60-70% of theaters have reopened across the U.S. and Canada, according to Disney. However, some of the biggest moviegoing markets, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, New Jersey and New York, still remain closed. In parts of the country where theaters have resumed business, venues are capping capacity and keeping space between seats to comply with social distancing measures. "The New Mutants" played in 2,412 theaters, making it the widest release in months.
Overseas, "The New Mutants" amassed $2.9 million from 10 markets, bringing its global haul to $9.9 million.
"We're encouraged by the results," said Cathleen Taff, Disney's president of global distribution. "We didn't expect everyone to come back to the movies at once, but there's clearly an appetite." She stressed that given the rapidly changing environment, the studio is remaining cautious for moving ahead with new releases
"It's not a linear process," Taff said. "We have to stay fluid and work with the framework of this new reality."
Even before the pandemic hit, "The New Mutants" was facing headwinds. The"X-Men" spinoff, about young mutants discovering their powers, had a particularly arduous journey to the big screen since it was initially scheduled to release in 2018. It reportedly went through extensive reshoots and has been delayed numerous times.
Analyst David A. Gross, who runs movie consultancy FranchiseRe, estimates "The New Mutants" would have generated roughly $14 million if all 6,000 movie theaters in the country were open.
"The figure is below superhero and horror spinoff averages," Gross said. "Still, it's a positive step for the business following last weekend."
"The New Mutants" bowed this weekend alongside a number of new offerings, including Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter's "Bill and Ted Face the Music" and "The Personal History of David Copperfield" starring Dev Patel.
"Bill and Ted Face the Music," the third installment in the sci-fi comedy franchise, simultaneously debuted on digital rental services. Theatrically, the film picked up $1.06 million from 1,007 screens - with drive-in theaters in Salt Lake City, Dallas and Houston accounting for a bulk of receipts. Though it's unclear how much money "Bill and Ted" made on premium video-on-demand platforms, Orion Films reported that it was the No. 1 title on iTunes, while the series bundle had the No. 2 slot. The third "Bill & Ted" movie, directed by Dean Parisot, received mostly positive reception.
"The Personal History David Copperfield" made $520,000 from 1,360 theaters, a slow start for the PG-rated comedy. The well-reviewed movie, based on the Charles Dickens novel, was directed by "Veep" creator Armando Iannucci. Searchlight, the specialty studio distributing the film, plans to expand "David Copperfield" to nearly 100 additional theaters in time for Labor Day weekend.
"The results, while modest, signals a return to the cinema for moviegoers who are yearning for the majesty of the big screen," said Searchlight's head of distribution Frank Rodriguez.
Among holdovers, Russell Crowe's road-rage thriller "Unhinged" pulled in $2.6 million during its second weekend of release, bringing its total bounty to $8.8 million.
"The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run" collected another $400,000 from 314 venues in Canada. After three weeks in theaters, Paramount's animated kids movie has made $2.9 million.
Though "The New Mutants" is among the bigger titles to premiere in theaters during the pandemic, the release of Christopher Nolan's "Tenet" is expected to serve as a litmus test for how eager U.S. audiences are to return to the movies. Already, the film industry has been encouraged by its performance overseas, where the time-twisty thriller debuted to $53 million over the weekend. It bows in domestic theaters on Sept. 3.