The town is still shell-shocked by yesterday’s news about Cineworld’s pending indefinite shutdown of its UK theaters this coming week. What we’re hearing now looks to be an expected partial shutdown of the U.S. No. 2 chain Regal.
Cineworld tweeted out this morning the following statement, “We can confirm we are considering the temporary closure of our UK and U.S. cinemas, but a final decision has not yet been reached. Once a decision has been made we will update all staff and customers as soon as we can.”
We can confirm we are considering the temporary closure of our U.K. and US cinemas, but a final decision has not yet been reached. Once a decision has been made we will update all staff and customers as soon as we can.
— Cineworld Cinemas (@cineworld) October 4, 2020
On Friday, distributors received word from Regal that out of their 340-400 sites that are now open stateside, 65 would close down temporarily starting Monday, with another 50 keeping weekend hours. Those Regal locations being closed are the lesser grossing venues in a short mile span of another bigger Regal location. So, it’s not entirely certain yet if the entire Regal chain will close down again for a lengthy span.
When news broke last night that the entire Regal circuit was going dark; that was abrupt news to their internal film bookers, who are actually waiting for official word themselves. We’ll know officially what’s going on tomorrow or Tuesday from Cineworld/Regal. I mean, the No. 2 location for Tenet stateside this past weekend was Regal’s Irvine Spectrum in Orange County, CA, so why would the chain close down all its venues? Currently, on Fandango, you can still buy tickets for the Irvine Spectrum this week and into next weekend, so that’s a possible sign that the entire Regal chain isn’t closing.
Overall, this sends a mixed message to moviegoers in regards to whether their local movie theater is open or not. Currently, per NRG polling, roughly 50% of all moviegoers in the states are aware that their local movie theater is open. It’s taken a hell of a lot of cash for the big chains to reopen with updated safety pandemic protocols, and if Cineworld/ Regal is going to shutdown and reopen, it’s going to cost them a ton of money again, I’m told.
Still, Cineworld and Regal’s looming down shutdown speaks to how dire the state of exhibition is. Some distribution studio bosses out there believe that the collapse of exhibition can be squarely blamed on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who still hasn’t reopened cinemas, but has reopened health clubs and casinos during the pandemic. If Regal goes dark, I’m told that’s an 18% blow to the domestic box office.
“Mooky Greidinger is fighting for his life,” says one studio boss this morning about the Cineworld head. “And it’s unfortunate, as he’s third-generation in the exhibition business. He needs a lifeline.”
Some are assessing that Cineworld/Regal’s radio silence about their exact immediate affairs stems from them trying to get their financial house in order. If their bondholders want them to close, that could put pressure on other exhibition bondholders (like AMC’s) to force their hand in a similar way.
Note that Tenet, which made $2.7M (-21%) in weekend 6 for a running $45.1M total, had a 12-week booking at most theaters. Many were expecting the movie to wind up with possibly $55M stateside, but that projection could be thrown off now by Regal’s affairs. In the UK, where Cineworld is closing, Tenet has reached $20.9M, which is only 26% to date of Dunkirk‘s final $80.8M cume in the country.
A surprise this past weekend was Disney’s rerelease of the 1993 Bette Midler-Sarah Jessica Parker-Kathy Najimy family comedy Hocus Pocus, which made $1.925M. Note, Tenet was always expected to win the weekend, and even won Friday over Hocus Pocus, $740K to $650K. Hocus Pocus was always looking to take 2nd place.
No doubt, the expected Regal partial shutdown will hurt those independent distributors with movies in the immediate October future, such as Freestyle’s 2 Hearts, Open Road’s Honest Thief and 101 Studios’ War With Grandpa, the latter which opens next weekend. Still, if Regal stays partially open, there’s a chance that these distributors could still capture a 2,000 theatrical break on opening weekend.
What some major studio distribution bosses think of Regal’s temporary close-down: The cinemas opened up too soon, and too sporadically, well before New York and Los Angeles were online, and for Tenet, a cerebral noir thriller that wasn’t necessarily going to bring in a stampede. Also, we need a Marvel, DC, or big IP movie to really get turnstiles spinning again, and not just one film, but a cluster of big movies, propped by big nationwide marketing campaigns (not a digital one).
The fear is that if Disney’s Soul vacates Thanksgiving, then the year-end holiday combo of 20th Century Studios’ Free Guy, Death on the Nile, Paramount’s Coming 2 America, Sony/Screen Gems’ Escape Room 2, Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman 1984 and Legendary’s Dune together is a perfect recipe to bring moviegoers back if the box office is going to have a finale to 2020. Despite making headway in talks with New York state a little more than a week ago, health officials there remain crickets about movie theaters reopening. The buzz has been that Los Angeles could reopen cinemas by Oct. 16.
Now what’s interesting at this depressed time at the box office is that there are a lot of independent movies out there, from studio classic labels like Focus Features with Kajillionaire in weekend 2 with $100K at 547 theaters (+18) for a running total of $404K, to NEON’s Sundance pick-up Possessor Uncut from Brandon Cronenberg ($227,5K), to Bleecker Street’s sci-fi comedy Save Yourselves! which made $141,6k at 388 theaters in the No. 11 spot. How is that? Essentially, it’s the best time for indie distributors to get screens, and their P&A is low. It’s non-risky fare, which is safe financially to release now, even with tastemaker markets New York City and Los Angeles unavailable; essentials to create a crossover hit down the road. However, it’s the big movies that exhibition requires for its livelihood.
The Cineworld shutdown was first reported in London’s Sunday Times, and Variety reported that Regal would also be shut down. WSJ said that the Regal shutdown was “likely,” with official word from the chain either tomorrow or Tuesday.
Below is how the top 10 movies made out from Deadline sources:
- Tenet (WB) 2,722 theaters (-128), 3-day $2.7M (-21%)/Total: $45.1M/Wk 6
- Hocus Pocus (Dis) 2,570 theaters $1.925M/Wk 1 of re-release
- The New Mutants (20th/Dis) 2,154 theaters (-151), 3-day $1M (-9%)/Total: $20.9M/Wk 6
- Unhinged (Sols) 2,023 (-159) 3-day $870K (-13%)/Total $18.4M/Wk 8
- Infidel (Cloudburst) 1,792 (-93) screens 3-day $455K (-40%)/Total $3.4M: Wk 3
- Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back (’97 version, Dis/20th) 3-day: $335K, (-63%) running total: $293M/Wk 1,233
- Beetlejuice (WB) 346 theaters, 3-day: $300K , running total $74M
- Broken Hearts Gallery (Sony) 2,00 (-41) 3-day $275K (-41%)/Total $3.7M/Wk 4
- Possessor Uncut (NEON) 320 theaters, 3-day $227,5K estimate/Wk 1
- Break the Silence (Trafal), 418 theaters (-14), 3-day $158,5K (-83%) estimate/Total Wk 2.
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