Cities across the United States are shutting down bars, restaurants, gyms, and other public gathering spaces amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. One marketplace that has especially been effected by these orders are movie theaters. Late last week, AMC theaters announced that they would be capping audience capacity at 50% in an effort to enforce social distancing. Alamo Drafthouse enacted a similar policy. However, following recent guidelines from The White House press conference, one of America’s largest theater chains is going to temporarily close its doors.
Cineworld-owned Regal Cinemas announced Monday that it is suspending operations across all 543 of its theaters in the U.S. indefinitely. The announcement comes following new guidance from The White House encouraging citizens to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people. The move is unsurprising given New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti mandated the closure of movie theaters (among other public spaces) in their respective cities in an effort to halt the further spread of the coronavirus. However, Regal is the first U.S. theater chain to announce a temporary shut down nationwide.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, this is only the first of many theater chain closures to come and that we should, “expect most, if not all, cinemas in the U.S. to follow suit and go dark in the coming days, much as in Europe and parts of Asia.”
Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger released the following statement:
“Any time, at any Regal, it’s our goal to provide a safe and healthy environment for our employees and guests. 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.”
The domestic box office just saw it’s lowest drop off in at least two decades and with that devastating blow to the film and theater industry, studios and theater chains sadly have to make major changes to their businesses. Earlier today, Universal Studios announced that they would be digitally releasing “Trolls: World Tour,” “The Invisible Man,” “The Hunt,” and “Emma” for 48 hour rental periods in the coming weeks. One can only speculate that other studios will shortly begin to follow suit. Where that leaves the hemorrhaging theater chains remains to be seen. Perhaps a deal can be struck between the studios and theater chains to allow digital rentals on their respective platforms.