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Liam Neeson's thriller leads cratering US box office

Los Angeles

LIAM Neeson's thriller Honest Thief limped to first place at the North American box office, debuting at US$3.7 million. Those ticket sales, among the lowest ever to land at No 1, came in slightly ahead of Christopher Nolan's Tenet and Robert De Niro's family comedy War With Grandpa.

Tenet, now in its seventh week of release, grossed US$1.6 million, bringing its North American haul to US$50.6 million. The sci-fi epic, from Warner Bros, continues to fare better overseas. Tenet generated US$5 million at the international box office for a global haul of US$333.9 million. Overall, it was another quiet weekend at the weekend box office as theatres that reopened have resorted to reduce hours of operation or closing down again entirely due to low attendance.

Apprehension among moviegoers, coupled with the lack of new potential blockbusters, are to blame for lacklustre ticket sales. Theatre owners argue that it's not fear keeping people from going to the movies, it is the dearth of fresh product from major studios. But Hollywood companies have been reluctant to unveil their biggest movies because cinemas in major markets such as New York and Los Angeles, which account for a bulk of ticket sales for any given movie, aren't open.

A potential bright spot: Last Saturday, New York governor Andrew Cuomo gave movie theatres outside of the city permission to reopen at reduced capacity starting on Oct 23. It remains to be seen whether the news will encourage studios to start unveiling major movies.

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In the meantime, specialty studios such as 101 Studios and IFC Films have been supplying exhibitors with new independent dramas and comedies.

War With Grandpa collected US$2.5 million from 2,260 locations in its second weekend of release, boosting domestic receipts to US$7.2 million. Disney, meanwhile, continues to find modest success with re-releases of past favourites. Tim Burton's 1993 holiday classic The Nightmare Before Christmas brought in US$1.3 million between last Friday and Sunday. Hocus Pocus, another three-decade-old hit, stirred up US$765,000 over the weekend. Romantic drama 2 Hearts, starring Jacob Elordi of The Kissing Booth and Euphoria fame, pulled in US$565,000 from 1,683 screens over the weekend.

Box office analysts suggest that movies skewed towards young adults, the kind that regularly populate Netflix queues, have not been a huge theatrical draw during the pandemic.

"Based on at least three youth-oriented movies released during the last month and a half, teens and young adults do not appear ready to return to the movies," said David Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. REUTERS

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