EXCLUSIVE: As Hurricane Florence barrels toward the south-eastern and mid-Atlantic states with 1 million people facing evacuation, movie theater chains are already closing shop with AMC, Regal and others scheduled to shutter 50-60 locations over the next couple of days depending on the intensity of the storm.
Florence is currently a category 4 and could approach category 5 by tomorrow. She’s expected to reach the Carolina landfall by early Friday morning, with 60 mph winds and heavy tropical rain scheduled to drop in the 25 inch range for 48 hours causing 12-foot salt water surges plus fresh water flash floods
“Let’s hope your house has 12 foot pilings on it,” exclaimed CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers.
Currently there are about 18 closings in the area comprised of five Regal venues (Mt. Pleasant, Summerville, Charleston, SC and Wilmington NC sites), three AMC in Myrtle Beach, SC and Wilmington, NC), one Cinemark theater in Myrtle Beach and ten other independents in that regional swath.
The mid Eastern coast region reps a small percentage of the weekend box office, so tracking should remain intact for a number of pics opening and playing. 20th Century Fox’s The Predator is expected to open in the high $20Ms, possibly $30M in first place followed by New Line’s The Nun in second around $25M, followed by Lionsgate’s female black comedy A Simple Favor looking at mid teens, and Studio 8/Sony’s White Boy Rick in the $8M-$10M range. This is not a situation on par to Snowstorm Jonas which put the New York City metropolitan area in a deep freeze, forcing theater closures and throwing wide releases off their B.O. forecasts (none of the wide entries that weekend —Dirty Grandpa, The Boy, The 5th Wave– were able to click past the $12M). Overall ticket sales counted $113.5M during that Jan. 22-24 frame, down close to 30% from the same period in 2015.
What’s the aftermath like in the wake of these monstrous storms? If you’re an extremely old theater, it could spell doom depending on your size and whether the owner wants to reinvest. But in certain cases, such natural disasters can create opportunity. Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee both hit the Binghamton/Vestal, NY area in Sept. 2011. AMC’s Vestal Town Square 9 was damaged, and the chain wound up renovating the location into a state-of-the-art multiplex with Sony 4K projectors and recliners, one of the first conversions during the lush theater craze. The location ultimately re-opened in December of that year.
We’ll have more updates for you as they come.