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Box Office: Massive Winter Storm to Inflict a Chill on Northeast Theaters

The massive Winter Storm Jonas will likely limit moviegoing in the Northeastern United States this weekend.

Many of the biggest cities in the Northeast — Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City — will be hit with heavy snow and strong winds between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. Storm warnings have been issued for the Carolinas, Ohio Valley, Tennessee Valley, central Arkansas and northeast Louisiana.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Rentrak, told Variety that the storm appears to be so large that it can’t help but have an impact, particularly since it will hit during the busiest days of moviegoing.

“Severe weather is often used as a reason for why certain movies have missed the mark during their opening weekends and in many cases it comes off like the old ‘my dog ate my homework’ excuse: easy to say, but difficult to prove,” he said. “However, this weekend with the National Weather Service predicting at a minimum that 50 million people could be affected, in certain areas of the country this could actually have a material impact on the box office marketplace as a whole.”

Dergarabedian noted that the weekend storm’s impact probably won’t stick around for the long term. “Luckily, like all storms, this one will eventually pass and movies, having an inherently long shelf life, will have a chance to make up the difference down the road,” he added.

“Ride Along 2” and “The Revenant” are expected to again lead the U.S. box office this weekend at about $20 million each, fending off the sixth frame of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and a trio of newcomers: Lionsgate’s comedy “Dirty Grandpa,” STX’s horror-thriller “The Boy”and Sony’s sci-fier “The 5th Wave,” which will battle for the fourth spot in the $9 million to $13 million range.

Dirty Grandpa” and “The 5th Wave” will have Thursday night preview screenings while STX has opted to eschew preview showings of “The Boy.”

One exec noted that although snow always affects moviegoing, the key factor is motivation. In other words, if a customer really wants to see a particular movie, they’ll make it work.

In New York City, as much as a foot of snow is expected. Broadway is prepping for the storm to impact theatergoing this weekend, although venues rarely close because of snow.

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