Regal Cinemas and Cineworld Movie Theaters to Close All US, UK Locations This Week

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Second largest U.S. cinema chain responds to ongoing pandemic and lack of new Hollywood releases

Regal Cinemas

Cineworld announced on Monday the “temporary suspension” of operations at all 543 Regal Cinemas locations in the U.S. as well as 127 movie theaters in the U.K. and Ireland beginning this Thursday. “As major US. markets, mainly New York, remained closed and without guidance on reopening timing, studios have been reluctant to release their pipeline of new films,” the company said in a statement, adding that 45,000 employees would be affected. “In turn, without these new releases, Cineworld cannot provide customers in both the U.S. and the U.K. — the company’s primary markets – with the breadth of strong commercial films necessary for them to consider coming back to theatres against the backdrop of COVID-19.” The announcement, first teased on Saturday, was triggered by MGM and Universal’s decision on Friday to postpone the release of the new James Bond film, “No Time to Die,” from November 20 to April 2021. The Disney/Pixar film “Soul” now stands as the sole remaining major release in November and is expected to move as well. “We are like a grocery shop that doesn’t have vegetables, fruit, meat,” Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger told the Wall Street Journal. “We cannot operate for a long time without a product.” In a statement, he added: “This is not a decision we made lightly, and we did everything in our power to support safe and sustainable reopenings in all of our markets — including meeting, and often exceeding, local health and safety guidelines in our theatres and working constructively with regulators and industry bodies to restore public confidence in our industry.” Reps for the other exhibition chains did not immediately respond to questions about their own plans. Movie theaters, with the aid of the National Association of Theater Owners and the Motion Picture Association, have attempted to reopen with a series of COVID-19 safety protocols adapted by theaters worldwide, including capacity limits in auditoriums, empty seats between viewing parties, deep cleanings in theaters, and updates to ventilation and air filtration systems to reduce the possibility of COVID-19 being spread in theaters. But a combination of factors, from lack of attractive new titles to general fears of the virus affecting the economy as a whole, have sunk attempts to revive the box office. After Disney moved its remake of “Mulan” to Disney+, Warner Bros.’ “Tenet” remained the sole major studio release to arrive in theaters, grossing a domestic total of just $45 million after five weekends in just over 2,900 theaters. The situation worsened after the release of “Tenet,” when Warner Bros. moved “Wonder Woman 1984” from a release in early October to Christmas Day while Universal’s “Candyman” was moved from mid-October to next year, leaving no major new releases for the month. Meanwhile, cities like Los Angeles and New York, which can account for as much as 20% of a film’s box office, have kept theaters closed due to COVID-19 concerns, though theaters in nearby states and counties have stayed open. While other countries have also seen a year-over-year drop in box office revenue as they have reopened theaters, the U.S. box office has seen the steepest drop as September grosses fell 90% from last year. By comparison, China, which reopened theaters in August after closing them way back in January, saw business as usual thanks in large part to the shocking success of Huayi Bros.’ “The Eight Hundred,” which recently joined the country’s all-time top 10 box office list with $441 million grossed. Should “Soul” move as expected, the next part of the release slate on the chopping block will be the usually lucrative holiday season, which currently has “Wonder Woman 1984,” Universal’s “The Croods: A New Age,” Warner Bros.’ “Dune” and Paramount’s “Coming 2 America.” With epidemiologists predicting a global surge in COVID-19 cases this winter, it is unclear whether these films will also have to move, and if so, how long into 2021 theaters will have to wait until they can attempt to reopen again. And the longer the wait, the more likely that the theater industry will slip further toward bankruptcy. In a letter to Congress last week, NATO warned that two-thirds of small and mid-sized theaters could go out of business if they are forced to stay closed for several more months without federal aid. While Democrats in the House of Representatives have passed their own $2.2 trillion pandemic stimulus plan, it is expected to die in the Senate as the Trump Administration and Senate Republicans have not reached an agreement on any new stimulus plan.


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