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The September Box Office Just Hit A Record Nobody Wanted

It's not exactly news that movie theaters have faced some real obstacles in recent years. A flourishing streaming market has put a real dent in attendance, particularly given how expensive a trip to the theater has become. And that was the case even before the COVID-19 pandemic when a great many studios decided to simply skip the big screen and cut distribution deals with the likes of Netflix and Hulu — and people had even less incentive to attend the theater. 

Those of us who still made it a point to attend the movies "in person" could do little during this time than watch our favorite theaters board themselves up, with many simply going under along with countless other businesses. As the world has, for better or worse, barrelled toward reopening, the obvious hope has been that the lion's share of the theaters would rebound.

Unfortunately, it hasn't shaken out that way. To this day even some of the most iconic movie theaters, like Hollywood's historic Cinerama Dome, have their futures stuck in limbo (via Deadline). Meanwhile, Regal Cinemas' parent company has filed for bankruptcy, and AMC Theaters struggles to stay afloat. The box office receipts for this past month have brought more bad news, leaving the question mark over the future of movie theaters stubbornly still hanging.

September's box office is the lowest in 25 years

According to a piece at The Wrap, North American theaters raked in about $275 million in September. Of course, that's a larger sum of money than most of us can even fathom, but when talking about studios already worth billions of dollars, that total is in fact worryingly low. There is a caveat in this total, namely that September of 2020 was far lower, coming in at around $86 million. But as everyone no doubt remembers, this was during the height of the pandemic, when the vast majority of cinemas were still shut tight, and as such that year is typically ignored as a statistical anomaly. 

Not counting the September 2020 draw, this is the lowest monthly total in 25 years, and it is the first time since 1997 when the box office take has been under $350 million. It is also about 20 percent lower than September 2021 and a whopping 52 percent lower than September 2019.

It is also the first time since September of 2001 — when interest in movies slumped thanks to the September 11th attacks — that not a single movie has had an opening weekend that earned more than $20 million at the box office. This September's biggest films — "The Woman King" and "Don't Worry Darling" — both missed that mark by less than a million dollars.