There just are not enough big movies coming out to keep theatres open. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, movie theatres across the country closed in March. Some were able to re-open in August but movie-goers are reluctant to take in a show.
Theatres were counting on the new James Bond movie, “No Time to Die”, to bring in customers. It was scheduled for a November release but has now been pushed back until April 2021. Cineworld, which owns Regal Cinemas, will close 543 of its Regal Cinema venues in the U.S. and all cinemas across the U.K. and Ireland this week. The hope is that the closures will be temporary, but the final decision has not been made.
Variety understands that staff were informed of Cineworld’s plans on Sunday — ahead of the company’s statement — with HR explaining that the closure of all cinemas is “one option that is strongly being considered,” though a decision hasn’t yet been made.
Variety understands from sources that the chain may close all sites in both countries as early as this week. Regal is the second largest domestic chain in the U.S., while Cineworld is the U.K.’s biggest cinema operator.
Cineworld is in contact with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden in the U.K., explaining that keeping the theatres open is unviable and that up to 5,500 jobs are at stake. The big releases are being delayed and customers are not going back to the movies as hoped due to personal safety concerns with the coronavirus. The announcement is a shock to workers and they complain about being left out of the process. A “collective of employees” (I assume that means a union) posted their dismay on Twitter.
Cineworld staff weren’t informed of the company’s decision in advance of Saturday’s news. Cineworld Action Group, a collective of employees supported by entertainment union Bectu, tweeted on Saturday that “there has been no consultation with staff whatsoever.” News of the closures first emerged via a preview of The Sunday Times’ front page, posted late on Saturday night.
We have found out vital information about our jobs from the media throughout the pandemic. Workers have been left out of discussions that should’ve included our voices. However, in this case it goes beyond belief. To find out you may no longer have a job from the media is awful.
— Cineworld Action Group (@cineactiongroup) October 3, 2020
After lackluster ticket sales for “Tenet” in September, other new movies set for release were shuffled around. Big markets like New York City and Los Angeles continue to keep movie theatres closed and a new wave of coronavirus cases is hitting Europe. For now, the next big hope for success at the box office is Pixar’s “Soul” set to be released on Nov. 20. A decision could still be made on that one, though, as Disney may move it directly to Disney Plus. That is what the company ended up doing with “Mulan”. “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Dune,” Warner Brothers productions, are still set for December, though there’s a chance those movies could also be postponed.
North America is the world’s largest theatrical market. Theatres have grossed more than $11 billion each year since 2015. In the U.S., Congress is being lobbied to include movie theatre operators in the Phase 4 government bail-out deal.
Even with assurances from the theatre operators that new safety measures were in place – air ventilation systems, frequent deep cleanings, social distancing between seats, facial mask requirements, and so forth – and drastically reduced ticket price sales promotions, the comeback has been painfully slow. In the U.S. a major problem is the different restrictions from state to state. And, it doesn’t seem logical to many Americans that restaurants are re-opening and other establishments but not movie theatres. Cineworld’s CEO has appealed to Governor Cuomo. So far he hasn’t changed his mind.
Regal’s decision to close its doors again, less than two months after reopening, is partially because theaters in major U.S. markets like Los Angeles and New York City have yet to reopen. Mr. Greidinger recently sent a letter to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, imploring the state to evaluate theaters along similar lines as other indoor venues.
In states such as California and New York, theater owners large and small have expressed bewilderment as authorities have allowed some indoor establishments such as restaurants, bowling alleys and churches to open with capacity restrictions while requiring theaters keep their doors closed.
“In the cinema, everyone is seated and looks in the same direction…in the restaurant you take off your mask and you sit one in front of the other,” said Mr. Greidinger. “It simply doesn’t make sense.”
In August, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, addressed movie theaters’ closures, arguing that they weren’t high on the priority list for businesses that should be allowed to reopen. “It is congregate. It’s one ventilation system. You’re seated there for a long period of time.…This is a risky situation,” he said.
The closures affect more than 500 Regal theaters in the U.S. and 127 Cineworld locations in the U.K.
As it happens, today is James Bond Day. On this day in 1962, the first Bond movie, “Dr. No” was released.
— James Bond (@007) October 4, 2020