EXCLUSIVE, 3RD UPDATE: Regal Cinemas, Cinemark and Cobb Theaters have closed their southeast coast venues from Florida to South Carolina as Hurricane Matthew
hits landfall. Cinemark Florida locations in such cities as Orlando, Boca Raton, Jacksonville, Boynton Beach as well as South Carolina locales Myrtle Beach and Bluffton hubs have shuttered until further notice. Cobb’s Merritt Island and Downtown 16 in Palm Beach have turned off the lights. Regal issued the following statement below this morning regarding the closure of its coastal theaters in the category 4 storm’s corridor:
In an effort to ensure the safety of our employees and guests, Regal theatres located along the Eastern Coast that will be impacted by Hurricane Matthew, including those in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, will be closed starting Thursday, October 6 and will reopen when the conditions permit. For updates regarding the operating hours of any Regal Entertainment Group family theatre, please visit www.REGmovies.com.
While distrib execs estimate that weekend ticket sales could be off as much as an additional -5% this weekend, let’s hope there isn’t any long-term damage here from Matthew. CNN reports that authorities have called for more than 2M people to evacuate their homes in coastal Florida, Georgia and South Carolina — the largest mandatory evacuations in the U.S. since Hurricane Sandy smashed the East Coast in 2012.
EXCLUSIVE, 2ND UPDATE, Wed. 1:39PM: With a slew of entertainment events cancelling left and right in the southeast, movie exhibition is largely the last holdout. However, AMC Theatres is playing it safe in Florida. The theater chain will be closing its West Palm Beach Indian River 24 on Thursday. And its seven Miami venues will close
in the late afternoon/early evening tomorrow into Friday. We also hear that its two Jacksonville, Florida hubs will close Friday, and potentially Saturday to tend to Hurricane repairs. Ticket buyers can keep up to date on each venue’s showtimes via AMC’s website. The chain plans to respond to the storm accordingly; should the severity be less than anticipated, than it’s projector lights on. Cinemark and Regal will make a decision tonight as to whether they’ll shutter their Jacksonville locations due to the storm. Also in Miami, the Coral Gables Art Cinema (not an AMC venue) will be closed Thursday, but their 70MM Film Festival, which starts Friday, is still on.
The Paragon 10 in Daytona, Florida will also be shut down tomorrow. The city is being evacuated.
Up in Wilmington, N.C., the big jumbo 3D screen Carmike 16 are still open and are awaiting instructions from corporate as to what to do. A theater rep there mentioned the storm could swing back out to sea.
“At this point we plan to be closed tonight and tomorrow. We have to disconnect the projectors so there is no water damage,” said Cassidy Arnold, operations manager for Frank Theaters in Savannah, GA which operates 9 screens. “We plan to be closed for Thursday through Saturday and some of the islands and the college area have been evacuated. It is going to hit us on Friday.”
In Charleston, S.C. the Terrace Theater and Carmike’s James Island 8 are still TBD. Both venues are open now, but they’re unsure if they’ll be open tomorrow.
“We are open at least through tomorrow night and probably through Friday,” said Shawn Armstrong, operations manager for Northridge Cinema 10 in Hilton Head Island, SC. “They have issued a strongly suggested evacuation and cut all incoming traffic to the island. We are staying open because everything else is closed but we’re taking a wait and see approach for Saturday.”
Park Plaza and Coligny theaters are both closed on Hilton Head.
Anita Busch contributed to this report
Tuesday, 7:14PM, 1st UPDATE: While there’s no official word yet about any major exhibitor chains closing for fear of Hurricane Matthew, don’t be surprised, as Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida have declared states of emergency.
Should Matthew make landfall and drench the Southeast, it could put a 5% dent in this weekend’s ticket sales. That’s bad news for both exhibitors and distributors who are already weathering a fall box office frame that’s 9% off from last year’s period that spanned from post-Labor Day to the first weekend of October, according to comScore.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott told the press today that “we have to prepare for a direct hit,” and a Miami battering by Matthew could cost distributors and exhibitors 2% of the weekend’s box office in that city alone.
The last time the B.O. was slaughtered by Mother Nature was during the third weekend of January, when Winter Storm Jonas forced several theaters to close from Charlotte, N.C., to New York City. The bad news with Jonas, per sources, was that it slowed total weekend ticket sales for January 22-24 by 8%-10%, with no title hitting $20M (The Revenant was the No. 1 film with $16M in its fifth weekend). The good news about that box office weekend? It wasn’t the worst one so far this year, ringing up $114M. The worst weekend so far was September 16-18 with $89.8M, when Blair Witch, Bridget Jones’s Baby and Snowden tanked against Sully‘s second frame hold on No. 1
Should Matthew force theaters to close in Miami, it’s not expected to shake up the B.O. that significantly, but there’s a greater concern should the storm travel north, past Atlanta. This weekend, the No. 1 film will be Universal’s feature adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel The Girl on the Train, which is expected to pull in a three-day of $27M-$28M at 3,135 venues. Fox Searchlight’s controversial but critically acclaimed Nate Parker film The Birth of a Nation is estimated to pull in between $7M-$8M at about 2,100 theaters. Then there’s CBS Films’ family comedy Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, based on James Patterson’s beloved kid novel, in 2,750 theaters with a forecast of $7M. While AMC closed its theaters in NYC during Jonas, none of the chain’s venues in the Carolinas is expected to close since they’re not on the coast.
Elsewhere throughout the Southeast, several major entertainment events already have been postponed. Deadline’s Dominic Patten reported that the looming hurricane forced the cancellation of The Chew‘s taping at Epcot in Orlando. Upcoming performances by the Dance Theatre of Harlem and Bernadette Peters are being rescheduled at Gaillard Center in Charleston, S.C. Miami Beach canceled the opening night of its Soundscape Cinema Series, which had Fox Searchlight’s Brooklyn slated for Wednesday night.
However, planners at the Melbourne Independent Filmmakers Festival at Premiere Theatres Stadium 10 in Melbourne, FL, aren’t ready to quit their October 7 and 8 playdates. No word yet if Saturday’s nationally televised game between Miami and Florida State or Sunday’s Miami Dolphins game at Hard Rock Stadium will be postponed.