I’m a box office watcher. The numbers are an indicator of national taste and cultural health. But we’re in the midst of a pandemic; the megaplexes are closed. There’s barely a box office to watch. The usual trusted sources are now featuring headlines like “Friday Estimates: Nothing to Report.” Everything’s streaming, and streaming executives won’t tell you how anything’s doing. Our cultural health has become classified data. So the weekend of March 13 to 15 is the time a clock stopped.

What if, periodically, we turned the clock back and looked at the numbers for some other weekend? This is something I’ve been meaning to do for months, but now seems like the perfect time to start, since the past is about as close as anybody’s getting to a vacation. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion” because I was curious to see how it holds up as a predictor of how we might hold up. The numbers weren’t on my mind.

So let’s do something perfectly obvious and go back 25 years to 1995 and the weekend of March 24 to 26, when North America’s No. 1 movie, for a third week, was “Outbreak,” the killer-virus thriller with Drs. Dustin Hoffman and Cuba Gooding Jr. trying to catch a lethally adorable pet monkey that Patrick Dempsey imports from Africa.

Domestic Box Office, March 24-26, 1995
1. ”Outbreak”

2. “Major Payne”

3. “Dolores Claiborne”

4. “The Madness of King George”

5. “The Secret of Roan Inish”

6. “Man of the House”

7. “Tall Tale”

8. “Just Cause”

9. “Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh”

10. “Bye Bye Love”

By then, “Outbreak,” directed by Wolfgang Petersen (the hitmaker, just off “In the Line of Fire” and on his way to “Air Force One”), had grossed around $70 million in today’s money and arrived in the middle of an ebola epidemic that never took hold here. Feeling voyeuristic and, perhaps, complacent, we lined up for this — Ebola: The Ride.

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