Cineworld, the UK cinema chain that also owns U.S. exhibitor Regal Cinemas, has delayed its re-opening plans by three weeks due to continued coronavirus disruption.
The operator had been set to start re-opening theaters from July 10, but a number of important markets including Los Angeles and New York are yet to get the green light, so that date is moving provisionally to July 31.
The film slate has also shifted, with key titles Tenet and Mulan delaying to August 12 and August 21 respectively. Russell Crowe thriller Unhinged, which is being touted as the first major release post-lockdown, recently shifted to July 31. Sony’s The Broken Hearts Gallery is set for August 7 and could become the first significant studio theatrical release if it holds.
Yesterday, AMC Theaters, the number one exhib in the U.S. (ahead of Regal), announced it was delaying plans to re-open its circuit until July 30.
This situation continues to be fluid. Parts of the U.S. are experiencing a surge in confirmed COVID cases and have been re-introducing lockdown measures. Yesterday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey re-closed movie theaters for at least a month, after similar action in Texas and LA. In the UK, there are fears that a second wave could be imminent as lockdown continues to be eased; one major city, Leicester, has already gone back into lockdown after a spike.
If the last couple of weeks have taught us anything, it’s that release dates are a continually moveable feast right now. Tenet, Mulan and Unhinged have delayed several times already and there’s no reason that won’t happen again. Ultimately, distributors can only react to the situation they are presented with, and that is changing on an almost daily basis right now. Exhibitors are clearly keen to re-open their doors but if there’s no eye-catching titles to support that endeavor and attract audiences back into auditoriums – where the conditions will be alien with distancing and PPE usage – the numbers just won’t add up.
Both Regal and its parent Cineworld have been involved in the debate swirling around whether face masks should be mandatory for staff and customers at venues once they re-open. In the U.S., Regal has stated it will enforce their usage for all patrons. In the UK, the government confirmed last week that masks will not be enforced upon venues, meaning they it will be up to exhibitors to introduce the policy or not – Cineworld staff lobbying groups have entered into a public spat with the company after it said it would make them a requirement for workers but not customers.
The exhibitor said in a statement today: “In line with recent adjustments to the schedule of upcoming movie releases, Cineworld will re-open its cinemas in the UK starting Friday July 31, subject to final clarifications and confirmation in relation to government COVID-19 restrictions.”
Reuters first reported today’s Cineworld update.
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