Movie theater comeback? Memorial Day weekend box office biggest since start of pandemic

PLEASANT HILL, Calif. (KGO) -- As people rush to escape the heat, many in the Bay Area are turning to movie theaters -- and it's a welcome sight for theater owners after the past year. It's also good news for Hollywood.

This Memorial Day weekend grossed $100 million, the biggest weekend for the movie theater box office since the shutdown last March, according to Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore.

"Memorial weekend is usually a very pivotal weekend for the movie business and movie theaters," Dergarabedian told ABC7 News. "It normally is a bellwether for what's to come for the box office in any given summer movie season, so it's vitally important, and in 2021 it may have been the most important memorial weekend ever...because it's been a while since we've had a summer movie season at the box office."

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Last Memorial Day weekend, during the pandemic, box office grosses were less than $1 million.

While this year, the two new Memorial Day releases -- Disney's "Cruella" and "A Quiet Place Part II" -- both did better than expected, their numbers are still far from reaching pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, Memorial Day weekend grossed $213 million -- more than double.

Still, Dergarabedian sees this year's numbers as a hopeful sign that people are starting to go back to the movies at a time when more and more people have started streaming.

"People spoke very loudly with their presence in movie theaters this weekend," he said. "And only about 72% of theaters are even open and many of them are opened at limited capacity."
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For Leo Sweeney, who was seeing Cruella at the Century Theaters in Pleasant Hill, streaming at home is nothing compared to going to the movies.

"When I went to Avengers End Game, this was in 2019 before everything hit, there were people you could talk with, fans," he recalled. "And we would go nuts. We would go 'yay!' and 'Yeah, yeah, yeah!' or 'Aw!'"

"It's like you can't get that streaming on a phone," he added.

No, you certainly can't.

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