On Thursday, more than 500 movie theaters will go dark as a result of Regal Cinemas’ announcement to temporarily close all US locations. The difficult decision to close after many of the theaters have been open since the end of August is largely due to the complications COVID-19 has created for the movie theater industry.
Regal Cinemas' judgement to close their movie theaters came shortly after the new James Bond No Time to Die was postponed until April 2021. Other blockbusters announced postponement past the initial release dates include Wonder Woman 1984, Black Widow, A Quiet Place II, Candyman, and Dune. Disney+ allowed Disney blockbusters to be released online only, such as Mulan. In a recent interview, John Fithian, chief executive of the National Association of Theatre Owners commented, “If the studios continue postponing all their releases, the movie theaters aren’t going to be there for those postponed releases,” but continued his statement with optimism that new movies need the theaters just as much as theaters need new movies. Referring to the movie studios, “They have to consider whether they want the long-term viability of the theater platform to be available to them. And I think they do since about 80 percent of the movies that were scheduled during our closed period have been postponed for future theatrical release and not taken to the home.”
Another hindrance to the movie theater industry is the closure of all movie theaters in New York state, which is a primary market. The New York Times stated, “Mr. Fithian also pointed to the government-mandated closure of theaters in New York State, home to a crucial box office market because of its size and cultural influence, as a major reason that releases were being delayed and chains were suffering financially.” As New York has rolled out the fourth phase for reopening, movie theaters have been required to be closed along with concert venues and amusement parks. Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Governor Andrew Cuomo, responded, “We’re moving heaven and earth trying to stop a second wave and people need to acknowledge that we’re still in a pandemic and start to act like it. We understand some people are unhappy but you know what? Better unhappy than sick or worse.”
To compare the bleak financial situation for movie theaters, last weekend about 50% of the US movie theaters were open and box offices reported $12 million in revenue. This same weekend last year reached $150 million ($96.2 million credited to the release of “Joker” that same weekend).
Although the announcement to close all Regal Cinemas is temporary, the entire movie theater industry will continue to suffer if blockbuster releases are continually moved to future dates and major movie markets, like New York, remain closed. Stephan Beck, a management consultant at cg42, had a more optimistic outlook, “What Regal announced is obviously terrible but I don’t think the business is gone by any stretch of the imagination.” He added. “Its role might be different. Its scale and scope might be different but I don’t believe the theater business as an industry is gone.”
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