Cinemark, the No. 3 U.S. exhibitor, has updated its reopening timeline, slating July 24 for the restart with library fare and July 31 as the first date for new releases. The revised dates keep Cinemark in sync with major rivals AMC and Regal.
Just a few short weeks ago, Cinemark was the first major circuit to announce a plan to welcome visitors to theaters for the first time in three months, a process that was to begin by the end of June and kick fully into gear July 17. Since then, trends in COVID-19 have headed in a distinctly negative direction nationally, especially in populous states like Texas, Florida and California. In one sign of the times, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday put a “hard pause” on movie theater reopenings, indicating the dire state of affairs.
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Cinemark said it arrived at its new dates after studying results from reopening five theaters in its home market of Dallas. It now plans to reopen a wider set of locations on Friday the 24th by showing an unspecified roster of classic movies at discount prices, with additional theaters reopening in subsequent weeks.
Ticket buyers will get access to new releases starting with Unhinged on July 31. The Broken Hearts Gallery will be next up on August 7, followed by Tenet on August 12, Mulan on August 21, Bill & Ted Face the Music on August 28, and A Quiet Place Part II on September 4.
Cinemark’s news followed word out of the UK from Regal parent Cineworld, which said Regal locations would reopen July 31, a delay of three weeks from the prior timeline. AMC, the No. 1 U.S. circuit, said Monday it was shifting back its reopening to July 30.
Studios have been playing leapfrog with each other, shuffling and reshuffling release dates as they endure a movie summer unlike any other in history. Daily COVID-19 information is prompting governments in many states to roll back the aggressive reopening plans that saw many businesses open their doors in May. That led to guarded optimism about summer returning to some semblance of normal by the July Fourth weekend. Instead, fireworks have been snuffed out and video on demand is still the release method of choice.
“Cinemark is pleased with the moviegoer response and key learnings from our initial five-theater test-and-learn phase in the Dallas area, and we look forward to welcoming movie fans back into our auditoriums across the country to enjoy this year’s newest films,” Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi said. “Our multi-phased reopening plan was thoughtfully designed with multiple contingencies in place that enable us to efficiently adapt to today’s ever-changing environment. We continue to pay close attention to status of the virus, local mandates and availability of new content while prioritizing the health and safety of our guests, employees and communities.”
The company said the health and safety of “guests, employees and communities is a top priority.” It will implement what it calls The Cinemark Standard upon reopening, indicating a higher level of cleanliness, sanitizing and safety measures. Each location will also have a designated Chief Clean and Safety Monitor on duty.
In a research note to clients Tuesday, Macquarie analyst Chad Beynton said he still expects a major bounce-back for theaters in 2021. Still, he wrote, “near-term social distancing restrictions and increasing COVID-19 case counts are concerning.” Of all publicly traded theater owners, Cinemark earned the highest marks from Beynton, who praised its conservative balance sheet” and said its “overall management strategy is second to none.”
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