The Hits Keep Coming as Summer Box Office Hopes Fade

Last week was one to forget for exhibitors, eager to re-start their business following months of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. High-profile studio titles Mulan (Disney) and Tenet (Warner Bros.) were further delayed into August following renewed fears about COVID-19 infection spikes in California, Arizona, Texas and Florida, among other areas.

Then came news on June 26 that the long-delayed third installment in MGM’s Orion Pictures’ “Bill & Ted” sci-fi adult comedy franchise Bill & Ted Face the Music, starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter in their original roles, was being pushed back to Aug. 28 from Aug. 21 — the new date of the Mulan reschedule. Bill & Ted, about two metalhead slacker friends who travel through time, had been originally slated for Aug. 14. The original Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure launched in 1989, followed by Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey in 1991 — both starring Reeves and Winter — and grossing $78 million ($149 million today) collectively in theaters.

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Over the weekend, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered bars closed again in Los Angeles and six other counties.

“This does not bode well for film and TV production, movie theaters, the restart of sports, including college athletics and theme parks,” Rich Greenfield with LightShed Partners, tweeted June 28.

Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter contends the box office won’t return to normal even as major chains such as AMC Theatres, Regal Cinemas and Cinemark, re-open screens next month.

“People may be eager to visit the theaters once they feel safe doing so, but we think it is unlikely crowds will return to any semblance of normal before a vaccine is widely distributed, particularly in urban and suburban markets,” Pachter wrote in a note.

Regardless, MGM has a lot riding on the movie, having just secured all remaining international territories (excluding China) for the movie from Endeavor Content. MGM had previously secured distribution in key international territories, including Germany, Greece, Latin America and the Middle East, among others. As part of the June 25 announced agreement, MGM will also distribute Face The Music throughout France, Italy, Spain, Japan, South Korea, Scandinavia, Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Hungary, Turkey, Benelux, Bulgaria, Singapore and Romania.

“[The movie] is the perfect dose of fun and nostalgia and universally relatable in its message to ‘be excellent to each other,'” Chris Ottinger, who heads MGM’s international distribution and acquisitions division, said in a statement.

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