Over the weekend, Cineworld confirmed that they were considering temporary closure of all their Regal Cinemas locations in the United States as well as all of the theaters they own in the United Kingdom. At the time, it was merely an option they were considering in the wake of No Time to Die officially opting out of being released in theaters this year and shifting to a new date in April 2021. Now Cineworld has confirmed they will be closing all of their U.S. and U.K. movie theaters this week, and fellow U.K. theater chain Odeon will also be shutting their doors, but only during weekdays.
In an official press release, Cineworld announced they would be temporarily closing all 536 of their Regal Cinemas locations in the United States starting on Thursday, October 8. They’re also closing 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse cinemas in the United Kingdom. That puts roughly 40,000 employees in the United States out of a job for an undetermined amount of time, presumably into 2021. In the U.K., it means around 5,500 movie theater employees are being let go.
Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Cineworld, said this in the press release:
“This is not a decision we made lightly, and we did everything in our power to support a safe and sustainable reopening in the U.S.– from putting in place robust health and safety measures at our theatres to joining our industry in making a collective commitment to the CinemaSafe protocols to reaching out to state and local officials to educate them on these initiatives. We are especially grateful for and proud of the hard work our employees put in to adapt our theatres to the new protocols and cannot underscore enough how difficult this decision was.”
Cineworld places the blame for this situation on New York, one of the two largest theatrical markets in the United States, keeping theaters from opening. Greidinger added:
“Despite our work, positive feedback from our customers and the fact that there has been no evidence to date linking any COVID cases with cinemas, we have not been given a route to reopen in New York, although other indoor activities – like indoor dining, bowling and casinos were already allowed. The prolonged closures have had a detrimental impact on the release slate for the rest of the year, and, in turn, our ability to supply our customers with the lineup of blockbusters they’ve come to expect from us. As such, it is simply impossible to continue operations in our primary markets.”
I’m not sure this situation can be squarely blamed on New York. Theaters in Los Angeles, another huge market in the U.S., have also remained closed. But even theaters open in the rest of the country aren’t raking in a lot of money at the box office. Even the anticipated Tenet has been struggling to get audiences back into movie theaters, which has studios unwilling to spend the money to put any other blockbusters into release. I don’t think it matters what movies are in theaters right now, there are still a lot of people who just aren’t ready to go back while the coronavirus pandemic is still a threat.
There’s no window given as to when Cineworld might reopen theaters, but there are several major movies still currently on the calendar for December. Whether those dates will hold remains to be seen, but Cineworld says they will “continue to monitor the situation closely and will communicate any future plans to resume operations at the appropriate time, when key markets have more concrete guidance on their reopening status and, in turn, studios are able to bring their pipeline of major releases back to the big screen.” Cineworld isn’t the only theater chain changing their operations because of a lack of blockbusters.
Odeon Cinemas will be scaling back their operations by having a portion of their theaters only staying open on weekends. The Hollywood Reporter says roughly 120 Odeon theaters, which is about 25% of their total number of locations, will now be closed on weekdays, starting after October 9.
The news came from e-mails sent out to customers, where Odeon said they would fully re-open these locations “when the big blockbusters return.” However, they didn’t address whether or not this decision would put any of their employees out of work.
Closing for weekdays isn’t a bad way to stay afloat for longer, at least in the United Kingdom. Their reopening of businesses has gone a little smoother than the U.S., but since weekdays already bring in such little box office, especially during a pandemic, it makes sense to be open on weekends when people are more inclined to go out. Even though there won’t be any big new movies arriving in these next two months, people are still craving trips to the theater, and it gives more people a chance to see the like of Tenet and The New Mutants, if they’re so inclined.
Those these changes are deemed temporary, there’s a concern that some of these theaters could end up closing permanently if there aren’t any new movies to show soon. Unless governments opt to help bail out theaters to keep them afloat, we could see major theater chains going bankrupt or at least closing some of their less profitable locations to stay afloat. This is a pivotal moment for movie theaters, and theatrical distribution may look very different once we’re on the other side of the pandemic, hopefully in 2021.
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