Hurricane Harvey closed theaters in Texas. Saturday night was dominated by the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight; Sunday by the Game of Thrones season finale. And kids around the country readied for back to school. Americans had plenty of reasons to stay home this past weekend.
But that was also true the weekends after the 9/11 attacks and assassination of US president John F. Kennedy in 1963, and more people went to the cinemas then. The domestic box office, made up of the US and Canada, marked its lowest turnout of the century with 7.5 million tickets sold during the weekend of Aug. 25, Box Office Mojo estimated. The last time attendance was that low was during World War II, IndieWire pointed out.
Accounting for higher prices, it was a bad two days but not quite as stunning—it was the box office’s worst weekend since 2014. It brought in about $67 million in total grosses, which also included $2.6 million from the more-than-500 cinemas the Mayweather-McGregor fight played in. Without the pay-per-view boxing event, you’d have to go back to the weekend of Sept. 21, 2001 to find worse returns. The box office grossed $59.4 million then, lead by weeks old releases like Hardball and The Others. (The much-mocked Glitter also debuted to the 427,000 Mariah Carey fans who went to see it.)
This past weekend was led by the mediocre action flick The Hitman’s Bodyguard, the horror movie Annabelle: Creation—in their second and third weeks in theaters, respectively—and indies like Leap!, Wind River, and Logan Lucky.
It comes near the end of an exceptionally poor summer in US cinemas that has brought the annual box office down 6% from last year. There’s one weekend left in the “summer” period, which runs from the first Friday in May through Labor Day weekend in the US, and the only new releases theatergoers have to look forward to are indies like Tulip Fever, and re-releases like Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Hollywood is looking to the fall and winter to shore up returns. The dearth of new releases has lifted expectations for It—the next big movie to hit theaters—which is due out on Sept. 8, to be followed by much-hyped films like Blade Runner 2049, Justice League, Thor: Ragnarok, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi later this year.