‘Honest Thief’ Continues To Lead Lackluster Pandemic Box Office, ‘Empty Man’ Tripped By Holdovers

SUNDAY AM Refresh for more analysis and B.O. chart…The domestic box office remains in purgatory again at the weekend box office, this despite the fact that New York State reopened some cinemas in certain counties. We still need the full engine of Los Angeles, which is still closed, and New York City. I hear that there are continued talks between New York State Health officials and Theatre Owners about reopening New York City by those neighborhoods where COVID-19 cases are down.

The fact that Los Angeles isn’t opened yet is striking worry, though the county isn’t that far from getting its daily news cases at under 7 per 100K. Nonetheless, there are some fears that the December holiday release schedule which the majors have planned, centering around Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman 1984 could get pushed. Marketing campaigns will need to be fired off soon for these movies, and some insiders say that, yes, the U.S. Presidential Election and its outcome will play a hand in whether there’s a holiday movie season or not — even though Joe Biden, if he wins, wouldn’t get sworn in until January. A win for President Donald J. Trump means we stay the course during the pandemic according to those I’ve spoken with in distribution, while Biden is a ray of hope in regard to how the pandemic could be handled better. How’s that? It’s about consumer confidence, and it’s also about the major studio’s confidence which needs to be in lockstep with that. I continually hear things every week like “overall consumer sentiment for moviegoing continues to improve” but the box office isn’t showing it a marketplace that’s roughly 85% open (this despite the fact that most of No 2 chain Regal Cinemas continues to be closed, sans seven sites in California and another 11 in New York state).

For example, in regard to studio confidence, look at Disney with 20th Century Studios’ genre film The Empty Man this weekend, which was a new entry. What is the movie? Has anyone ever heard about this movie before? Because it was clearly dumped, particularly when you take into account the movie’s Comscore/Screen Engine PostTrak exits which were 42% in the top two boxes with an awful 25% definite recommend. While studio’s can make the sunshiny argument, “Hey, movie theaters, look at us as we provide content to you!,” if you’re not backing that up with a fire-breathing coast-to-coast marketing campaign, you’re not doing movie theaters any favors whatsoever. This while Disney robs exhibition (even in the future) of all potential money-making opportunities in order to feed the Disney+ beast, i.e. Mulan, Soul, and Hamilton. 

By comparison, seriously, let’s not hang Universal for busting the theatrical window with PVOD rev share model with AMC.

Entertainment social media analytics corporation RelishMix says that “The campaign on social for 20th’s The Empty Man dropped just one week ago on Oct. 16.  Any normal campaign for an indy, one-off high concept or awards contender will obviously drop at least two months out — at the latest.” I understand that a major studio wants to save on P&A with the lights turned off in LA and NYC, however, let’s at least provide some umpf if we’re putting a big screen release out there. Empty Man debuted in 4th this past weekend to $1.265M at 2,027 venues behind Open Road’s second weekend of reigning Liam Neeson action thriller Honest Thief which grossed $2.35M,  101 Studio’s The War With Grandpa which made $1.88M in its third weekend in No. 2 and Warner Bros.’ ninth weekend of Tenet which made $1.3M at 1,801 locations.

Video views for Empty Man on the 20th FB were low heading into the weekend at 20K with YouTube lightly boosted views were under 700K. Nothing to scream about. RelishMix spots no notable marketing materials for Empty Man. 

The movie, based on the Boom! Studios graphic novel, follows a retired cop who is looking into a group of teens who are disappearing mysteriously from a small Midwestern town. The locals believe it is the work of an urban legend known as The Empty Man. As the retired cop investigates, he discovers a secretive group and their attempts to summon a horrific, mystical entity, and soon his life—and the lives of those close to him—are in grave danger. Pic was directed and adapted by David Prior.

Social Media chatter for Empty Man was largely negative with the movie being compared to The Bye Bye Man, The Slender Man, The Candyman.

Empty Man stars The Kissing Booth franchise star Joel Courtney, who counts a social media reach across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter of 7.3M, and there’s nothing about Empty Man which can be found on his social media channels. James Badge Dale, the pic’s lead, counts 23K on Instagram and only posted this:


#TheEmptyMan #TheEmptyMan #TheEmptyMan Dir by the mad genius #DavidPrior If ya think you know… You have no idea what you’re in for. Big love to all our cast and crew who worked with commitment and passion to make something different, risky, and just outright fucking weird. @marinireland @sashafro @realowenteague @reineswart @joel_courtney @aaronsghost @johnakite_ #StephenRoot #RobAramayo #RonCanada All y’all Here’s to @20thcenturystudios and Boom. @stephenchristy In theaters NOW! Wear a Mask and Stay Safe!😷🖤

A post shared by James Badge Dale (@jamesbadgedale) on

Empty Man played mostly to empty locations, I hear, where it’s best markets where in the West and the South, though quite weak.  Of the few who showed up for Empty Man, 53% were male, 53% were over 25 with 66% between 18-34 years old. Diversity demos were 42% Caucasian, 28% Hispanic, 19% African American and 11% Asian/Other. Empty Man grossed $450K on Friday, $536K on Saturday and is expecting around $279K today.

Not to bury reborn Open Road’s successes over the weekend, but in addition to Honest Thief being No. 1 this past weekend, the distributor can boast about having the No. 1 film in digital entertainment over the weekend, the YA romance sequel After We Collided, which also had a limited opening in theaters, ranking in the top 10 with $420K at 460 locations. Including Canada, the Roger Kumble-directed feature has bagged $2M in its domestic run. After We Collided played best in Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, Detroit, and Miami, while Honest Thief was prominent in Dallas and Phoenix. The Neeson pic’s grosses also supplemented by the reopening of theaters in New York as well as drive-ins on the West Coast.





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