AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Other Theater Chains Close Nationwide Amid Coronavirus Crisis (Updating)

Over 4,000 movie theaters have closed in a matter of hours, and the number is still climbing

Regal Cinemas

The two largest theater chains in the U.S. have closed their doors as AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas announced Monday that they will close all U.S. locations in compliance with state, federal and local directives to combat the spread of coronavirus.

AMC, which is the largest American theater chain with just over 1,000 locations in the U.S., said in a statement released late on Monday that it expects that the nationwide closure will last 6-12 weeks. The company’s A-List ticket subscription service will be paused for all customers, who will be notified when the pause is about to end with the option to extend it for another month. any A-List member who did not renew their membership any time so far in  2020 will not have to wait the customary 6 months to rejoin. AMC will continue to operate its recently launched on-demand site, which has 3,500 films from every major film studio.

Regal Cinemas was the first major chain to close, announcing midday on Monday that it would indefinitely close all 543 of its locations nationwide to counter the spread of the coronavirus, with Showcase Cinemas and Alamo Drafthouse doing the same hours later.

“At this time, we have made the difficult decision to close our theaters. We value our movie-loving customers and have no doubt we will be serving them again as soon as possible with a full slate of Hollywood blockbusters,” read a statement from Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Regal parent company Cineworld.

Cinemark on Tuesday announced it would temporarily close all 345 of its U.S. theaters, effective on Wednesday, March 18.

“Through these absolutely unprecedented and evolving times, one thing will not change, and that is Cinemark’s dedication to its team members and moviegoers,” Mark Zoradi, Cinemark CEO, said in a statement. “The decision to close our U.S. theaters was incredibly tough, but we know it is the right thing to do as global Coronavirus concerns continue to escalate. We will closely monitor recommendations of national and local governmental health organizations and look forward to inviting everyone to once again enjoy experiencing the movies with Cinemark.”

The Plano, TX headquartered theater chain will also pause all of its Movie Club memberships as part of the Cinemark Movie Rewards program and extend the expiration of points until June 30.

Landmark Theaters suspended all of its operations effective on Tuesday, closing its 49 U.S. theaters across 27 markets.

“With circumstances at an unprecedented level around the COVID-19 virus and out of extreme caution for both our customers and employees, Landmark is suspending all operations until further notice, effective Tuesday, March 17,” Landmark Theaters president Paul Serwitz said in a statement to guests. “As a service industry, we believe we share in the responsibility in doing our part to combat the spread of this outbreak. Landmark will be back to providing our customers and employees a healthy and safe environment as soon as possible.”

In a statement from parent company National Amusements, Showcase Cinemas announced that it would close its 32 locations in five U.S. states starting on Monday night with plans to reopen on April 7. All tickets purchased in advance for future shows will be refunded and all accounts for the chain’s ticket subscription program will be placed on hold.

“Showcase Cinemas has worked very hard to provide the best moviegoing experience for our customers for nearly 85 years,” read a statement from National Amusements. “Our industry has weathered many difficult moments through the decades. Through these unprecedented times, we come to the same conclusion – people need and want to go to the movies. However, now is the time for public safety and to press pause on moviegoing.”

Dine-in chain Alamo Drafthouse announced the closure of all of its locations on Monday evening with the exception of a franchise-owned location in Winchester, VA. Like Showtime Cinemas, all advance tickets will be refunded and subscription program accounts will go on hold. Drafthouse says it will work with the Emergency Assistance Fund to assist as many staff members as possible during the indefinite closure.

“When we re-open after this unprecedented and indefinite hiatus, it will be in a dramatically altered world, and in an industry that’s been shaken to its core. We’ll be in close contact over the coming days and weeks with our teams, suppliers, and colleagues on what these closures mean and what we plan to do next,” read a statement posted on the Alamo Drafthouse website. 

The closures come shortly after a White House press conference in which health officials recommended that the public avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, a drop from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s earlier recommendation of avoiding gatherings of more than 50 people.

In accordance with those CDC guidelines, AMC Theatres announced earlier Monday that it would be capping all screenings at 50 tickets in an effort to remain open. But CEO Adam Aron said when announcing closures less than 24 hours later that the new guidelines forced the theater chain to completely shut down for the first time in its 100-year history.

“We are ever so disappointed for our moviegoing guests and for our employee teams that the new CDC guidelines that Americans should not gather in groups larger than 10 people make it impossible to open our theatres. Still, the health and wellbeing of AMC guests and employees, and of all Americans, takes precedence above all else,” Aron wrote.

“We will continue to monitor this situation very closely and look forward to the day we can again delight moviegoers nationwide by reopening AMC movie theatres in accordance with guidance from the CDC and local health authorities.”

The move comes less than a week after a press release from the National Association of Theater Owners‘ California/Nevada division assured the public that theaters would remain open in Santa Clara County for this past weekend as restrictions on public gatherings had not at the time pertained to movie theaters. But as government officials have called for more stringent social distancing policies to combat the spread of the coronavirus, analysts tell TheWrap that further widespread closures of American movie theaters are now expected, as has been the case throughout Europe and parts of Asia, including China, where theaters have been closed since late January. Cinemark, the third major national theater chain alongside Regal and AMC, is expected to announce nationwide closures soon.

Studios have responded to the crisis by indefinitely delaying the release of multiple major blockbusters such as Disney’s “Mulan,” MGM/Universal’s “No Time to Die,” and Universal’s “F9.” An exception has been the DreamWorks animated film “Trolls World Tour,” which Universal announced on Monday will be released day-and-date on digital home rental platforms as well as theatrically on April 10. The studio is also planning to make current theatrical releases like “The Invisible Man” and “The Hunt” available for digital rental as early as Friday with a suggested price of $19.99 for a 48-hour rental period.

TheWrap will update this story as more theater closures are announced.

More to come…