Revenues of the US box offices plummeted 45% this week from last weekend's gross, a trend which is likely to continue. Credit: SF Chronicle.

The unthinkable has happened.

For the first time in US history, Los Angeles and New York City announced the closure of movie theaters and other live venues, Xinhua reported.

The decisions came after box offices suffered a cheerless weekend due to reduced screenings in most parts of the country, especially in major metropolitan areas such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, where the incidence of Covid-19 is relatively higher.

Since ancillary revenues from foreign sales, home video/DVDs and streaming are still largely tied to box office performance in the North American market, many theater chains were reluctant to take steps to limit or ban public attendance at their theaters amid the coronavirus outbreak, the report said.

However, with the United States now facing an increasingly grave public health crisis caused by the coronavirus, local government officials have started to make the call that people should “shelter in place” and avoid public assemblies, the report said.

Up until Friday, attendance at movie theaters nationwide did not seem to be significantly affected by the growing pandemic. But the past weekend has witnessed box offices take a serious tumble.

Revenues of the US box offices plummeted 45% this week from last weekend’s gross, a trend which is likely to continue over the next two to three weeks as more theaters shut their doors in an effort to flatten the pandemic’s infectious curve, the report said.

Regal and AMC, two of the largest movie theater chains in the United States, and several smaller cinema chains have halved the seating capacity at their theaters to help maintain the 6-foot social distancing rule recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the report said.

“The impact of this unprecedented situation was apparent across many industries,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore, a US media analytics company. “Of course, movie theaters, amidst reduced capacity and an ever-evolving set of circumstances, had a very challenging weekend.”

Disney’s animated offering — “Onward” — topped box office revenues last weekend, and made it again over the weekend, though with a dismal take of only US$10.5 million, a 73% reduction from last weekend.

This brought its overall tally to US$60.8 million in North America and US$101 million globally, an abysmally low figure for the reliable hitmaker.

Lionsgate’s faith-based Christian drama, “I Still Believe,” pulled in a disappointing US$9.5 million, while the Sony, China’s Bona Film and US-based Cross Creek’s co-production, Vin Diesel starrer, “Bloodshot,” clocked in at third place with US$9.3 million domestically.

The superhero thriller also pulled in US$13 million internationally, though not nearly enough to recoup the film’s US$45 million production budget.

Variety reported that initial cinema closures have resulted in billions of dollars of revenue losses for US, Chinese and other film industries worldwide.

Given the widespread theater closures in the United States and across the globe, many of the major studios’ releases slated to debut in March and April have been postponed and are awaiting reschedulings.

Bumped films include such potential heavy-hitters as Disney’s live action “Mulan,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place Part II,” MGM’s “No Time to Die” and Universal’s Vin Diesel starrer “Fast and Furious 9.”