Cineworld didn’t waste much time deciding on whether or not it should close Regal movie theaters again. The parent company has announced that it will temporarily close all 536 Regal theaters in the US on October 8th due to a “challenging theatrical landscape” and ongoing pandemic-related closures in key markets like New York. Studios are hesitant to release new movies without theaters open in those areas, Cineworld claimed, and that in turn gave customers few reasons to come back regardless of how safe they felt.
The closures will unfortunately have consequences for workers. Cineworld said the shutdowns would affect about 40,000 jobs in the US.
The move accompanies parallel closures in the UK and are prompted in no small part by another delay for the James Bond movie No Time to Die, which was pushed back to April 2021 after concerns that even a November release wouldn’t be viable during the pandemic. Some major movies are still slated for US releases in 2020, such as Pixar’s Soul (November 20th) and Wonder Woman 1984 (December 25th), but they’re coming late in the year and aren’t immune to further delays.
As it stands, studios that have tried to launch movies despite the pandemic haven’t had much success. Variety noted that Christopher Nolan’s Tenet has fared well in some countries, racking up $300 million in ticket sales worldwide, but has struggled in the US — its revenue this weekend was only slightly higher than the re-release of the 1993 movie Hocus Pocus. The pandemic is still running rampant in the US, and viewers don’t appear willing to gamble with their health regardless of which markets are open.
Regal’s move underscores the increasing importance of streaming movies during the pandemic. Many studios have turned to premiering major movies online, sometimes alongside theatrical releases, as it’s often the only way they can ensure a large audience. These new closures could make streaming all the more important, particularly in areas where Regal was one of the few viable options.