Cineworld—which owns Regal Theaters and is the world's second biggest movie chain operator after AMC Theaters—has announced that it is "temporarily closing" all of its U.S. and U.K. movie theaters for at least a few months, possibly into 2021. There are 44 Regal Theaters in New York, and eight of those are in New York City.
"As major U.S. markets, mainly New York, remained closed and without guidance on reopening timing, studios have been reluctant to release their pipeline of new films," the company said in a statement. "In turn, without these new releases, Cineworld cannot provide customers in both the U.S. and the 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."
The straw that broke the camel's back came last week when the next James Bond film, No Time To Die, was moved from a planned late November release to early April 2021 (it was originally meant to come out in April 2020). Other blockbuster films scheduled to come out in late fall, including Wonder Woman 1984 and Black Widow, had already been postponed to next year. With the pandemic still going on and no tentpole movies scheduled until December at the earliest, CEO Mooky Greidinger said that the company “didn’t have the goods” to attract people back to cinemas.
Altogether, this move will impact 536 Regal Cinemas in the U.S. and 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse theaters in the U.K. More than 40,000 employees in the U.S. and 5,000 in the U.K. will be affected as a result.
"We had reached the stage where we had no alternative, it was a very, very difficult decision for us, mainly in view of the move we will have to take towards the employees," Greidinger told Sky News on Monday. "From a liquidity point of view, we were bleeding much bigger amounts when we are open than when we were closed."
No specific date was given as to when they might reopen. Greidinger added that it “might be in two months, it might even a little bit longer."
All movie theaters remain closed in New York City, and there is no indication that they will reopen anytime in the immediate future.
Financial analyst Eric Wold told The Hollywood Reporter that the delays could have major consequences for the industry: "While we can understand the studios' desire to hold releases until the release environment is perfect, we also believe studios must be willing to take a hit to feed the industry and keep the exhibitor group from completely falling apart," he said.
Over in the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would "encourage people to go out to the cinema, enjoy themselves and support" movie theaters despite the fact the country is seeing renewed restrictions because of a second wave of the virus—and could be headed for a second national lockdown.
In June, Film Forum director Karen Cooper told Gothamist, “Strangely enough, our survival may be stronger and more robust than the multi-million dollar chains.” At the time, AMC, the country’s largest theater chain, announced they were struggling; this remains true today.