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On a quiet weekend in theatres, ‘Spider-Man’ is number one again

NEW YORK (AP) – On a chillingly quiet weekend at movie theatres, Spider-Man: No Way Home again topped the box office in its seventh week of release.

January is traditionally a slow month for moviegoing and that’s been especially true this year, in part because the Omicron variant of the coronavirus prompted some postponements. But even before the Omicron surge or a blizzard that forced some theatres closed on Saturday in the Northeast, the weekend was set to be especially muted.

No Way Home, which has topped the box office for six of the past seven weekends, has continued to hold well since opening in December. This weekend, it dropped only 20 per cent from the week prior. In the record books, No Way Home is approaching the third-highest grossing film in North America, Avatar (USD760 million). It also added USD21.1 million overseas to pass USD1 billion internationally.

But aside from Paramount Pictures’ Scream, which stayed in second place with USD7.4 million in its third weekend, January has been a dead zone. No new releases opened widely over the weekend. Last week, one of the only films to try to open nationwide was The King’s Daughter, a woebegone fairy tale starring Pierce Brosnan that was made in 2014.

While the ups and downs of the pandemic have meant a fluctuating recovery for movie theatres, the dearth of January releases comes on the heels of Hollywood’s biggest pandemic success in Spider-Man: No Way Home. At the box office, famine has followed feast.

“Lack of movies is a critical issue for movie theatres,” said spokesman for the National Association of Theater Owners Patrick Corcoran. “Contrary to some industry thinking, we cannot live on blockbusters alone. A consistent flow of exclusive movies to the movie theatre is necessary to serve the range of audiences that go to the movies.”

“We cannot get back to normal and show audiences that movie theatres are safe if the studios don’t give us a normal flow of films,” added Corcoran.

For exhibitors, it’s a potentially worrying sign of what may come. Though there have always been lulls at the box office, such quiet periods could become more regular. Aside from the myriad films that go straight to streaming on platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+, industry consolidation – and less major studio product – has been a concern for theatre owners since Walt Disney Co acquired 20th Century Fox in 2019.

Whether the theatrical business can weather the changes wrought by streaming is one question. But another, and potentially more pressing one is whether theatres will always have enough movies to subsist in between the biggest hits.

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