Cineworld, owner of the largest chain of theaters in the UK and Ireland and the second largest in the United States under the branding, Regal Cinemas has closed all of its theatres, according to Variety Magazine and the Sunday Times.
Variety reported that all 543 theaters in the US, which represents over 7,000 movie screens have been closed.The Sunday Times added that Cineworld will also close all 128 theaters in the UK and Ireland, too.
“This is not a decision we made lightly”, said Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Cineworld. adding “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 CinemaSafeprotocols 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.”
In a prepared statement Cineworld said; as major U.S. markets, mainly New York, remained closed and without guidance on reopening timing, studios have been reluctant to release its pipeline of new films. In turn, without these new releases, Cineworld cannot provide customers in both the U.S. and U.K. – the company’s primary markets – with the breadth of strong commercial films necessary for them to consider coming back to theaters against the backdrop of COVID-19. These closures will impact approximately 40,000 employees across the U.S.
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.”
AMC Entertainment Holdings said in a press release Tuesday that AMC has reopened 83% of its U.S. theatres but attendance is down 85% year-over-year. Currently only 48% of theatres in North America are open according to media-measurement company Comscore. Such a downturn means Hollywood studios are delaying major releases, particularly the 25th James Bond film, No Time to Die that has been delayed to April 2021 a year later than the original release date and a further extension from the anticipated new November release date. Theatres were counting on Bond to arrive on time and help bail them out of poor ticket sales.
Movie theatres are in dire shape. Earlier this year, AMC agreed to shorten the theatrical window from 75 days down to 17 days before a studio can release the movie to a streaming platform. Is the theatre’s plight all Covid’s fault? Think about being in a theatre: everyone is looking the same way, by the very nature of being in a theatre, nobody should be talking. The size of the theatres with their 40 foot ceilings means that there is ample “air” in the room and most importantly, a new release stays in the theatres for weeks, so the ability to socially distance and pick a time to see a film when the theatre is not busy is pretty easy to do.
Now compare being in a theatre to say a church, where there is singing and praising or a restaurant where part of the joy being out to dinner is in conversation. The louder the restaurant, the closer you get to your dinner guest to hear one speak and if you are like me, the more booze I drink, the louder I get. There is nothing built into the restaurant or church experience that promotes social distancing. Theatres on the other hand are easy to keep a distance. The only restriction that may need to be enforced is that you can’t chow down on 40-ounce sodas and candy at the theatre and you must keep a mask on. Seeing the other pandemic hitting North America, that of the bulging waistline, keeping a mask on may not be a bad thing to enforce.
Maybe the Hollywood studios have had a taste of what it’s like to control production and distribution too. Maybe by holding films like Bond, they won’t have to negotiate with the theatres because the theatres will be out of business. I’d go watch Bond today if it was available. I’d much rather watch it at home, if it was available. What I can’t stand is that it’s not available. Something tells me that this ain’t about Covid. This is about a whole shift in movie distribution and theatres are the victim. Theatres are safer than churches, restaurants and gyms. Maybe we’re afraid of the dark, because staying away from theatres due to Covid makes no sense.
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