Will Movie Theatres Survive COVID-19
When millions of people pay $10 for $0.88 worth of buttered popcorn, an investment portfolio with movie theatres included would seem like a hit. Check that, WOULD HAVE seemed like a hit. But, among the many businesses that the coronavirus has shellacked, count movie theatres as Exhibit A. First, movie theatres were closed entirely. Then they c…r…e…a…k…e…d open just a bit but too slowly for movie distributors’ liking. So distributors sent their new releases straight to streaming services. Theatres were left showing The Love Bug to auditoriums 90% empty and with zero “let’s go to the movies” cachet. Already, the ultimate fallout is beginning as independent theatres are feeling the brunt, and chains are closing. Gildshire, long a Mall of Magazines with a movie buff imprimatur, was curious about the future. Here is what we know so far.
How are the most prominent chains doing under the COVID-19 stresses?
Mixed news, at least if you want to be as optimistic as possible. Regal Cinemas, the nation’s second-largest, took the worst hit. More than 7,000 screens went dark in the US earlier this month when the Regal chain shut down all 536 locations in the United States. The closure reflects “an increasingly challenging theatrical landscape” due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the chain said.
Regal started a reopening procedure in late August. But when James Bond’s No Time to Die was delayed again, this time until 2021, Regal’s prospects to slow down company financial losses were doomed.
Regal is a subsidiary of the U.K.-based Cineworld Group, which is based in the UK. More than 100 theaters in the United Kingdom have closed, as well.
“This is not a decision we made lightly. We did everything in our power to support a safe and sustainable reopening in the US,” said Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Cineworld.
“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,” Greidinger said. “As such, it is simply impossible to continue operations in our primary markets.”
That is a blow. Gildshire has a couple of Regal movie theatres down the street from our San Diego offices. How are other big chains doing?
The largest chain of theatres in the United States is in the AMC family. At first, it looked like they were joining Regal in the boulevard of broken dreams. In June, AMC said it had substantial doubt it could remain in business. But, the outlook from AMC is different now as summer gives way fall.
The chain has detailed plans to reopen movie theaters in the US. Also, news about its MoviePass-style A-List subscription program went out in an email sent to customers in late October.
So, when will movie theaters open?
While that depends on whether you are an AMC, Cinemark, Coming Attractions, or other movie theatre member, we can say, “It won’t be long now,” to most of you. It certainly depends on your state and local authorities (and how willing to wear a mask is your town,) but the relationship between the studios and your theatre is strong. Even Regal announced that it is reopening a small sampling of theatres, beginning in November. (Sure, it’s only eleven theatres, and they are all in New York City, but it is a start.)
The best news is this. A business model that has been strong since talking pictures came to the screen was on the brink, but it is fighting back. The renaissance of movie theatres is underway. Is that the theme to “Rocky” that I hear?