Theater Owners: Many Cinemas Won’t “Be Able To Feasibly Open” Early Despite Some States Lifting COVID-19 Restrictions

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As states like Georgia will ease their COVID-19 shelter-in restrictions as early as this weekend, with movie theaters allowed to re-open on Monday, April 27, the National Association of Theater Owners issued a statement today, reminding that moviegoing will take a while to return to form.

“While some states and localities are beginning to authorize the opening of movie theaters under certain conditions, the movie theater industry is also a national one. Until the majority of markets in the U.S. are open, and major markets in particular, new wide release movies are unlikely to be available.  As a result, some theaters in some areas that are authorized to open may be able economically to reopen with repertory product;  however, many theaters will not be able to feasibly open,” said NATO this morning in a statement.

The big chains, Deadline has confirmed –AMC, Regal, and Cinemark– won’t be re-opening anytime soon. While AMC is eyeing early June, and Cinemark around July 1, Regal still hasn’t officially said when they’ll re-open.

Other states allowing cinemas to re-open include Tennessee, South Carolina and Mississippi. One independent theater owner in Kentucky told Deadline he plans to have his cinemas open for Memorial Day weekend.

“At this time, we have not made a decision when to reopen Regal theatres. We are constantly following the information provided by authorities.  In order to open our theatres, at first we will need to ensure the safety of our guests and employees. At the same time, we are working closely with our studio partners on when they will make their movies available. We will continue to work with both authorities and the studios in order to host our audiences and show them the big blockbusters in a safe environment,” Regal said in a statement sent to Deadline.

So who is exactly set to re-open in Georgia? Drive-ins for sure, but I hear from sources it’s largely the independent theater owners who own their own properties. Many exhibitors have abatements in their rental leases and it’s not in their best financial interest to re-open if there isn’t a new supply of product from the major studios. The first notable releases on the schedule are Universal’s Judd Apatow-Pete Davidson comedy The King of Staten Island on June 19 and Lionsgate’s thriller Fatale, but all anticipation and eyes are on Christopher Nolan’s Tenet from Warner Bros. on July 17.

Those cinemas re-opening plan to program studio catalog titles for a while. Universal will also have Trolls World Tour on hand for those who wish to book it; a handful of drive-ins have done so already.

But keep this in mind: studios for their big event films don’t just need major box office capitals Los Angeles and New York City to be back on line, but largely the rest of the world, i.e. China and Europe.


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