EXCLUSIVE: Cineworld has set plans to reopen its Regal cinemas in the U.S. for the first time in six months. The phased process will start with a limited number of cinemas opening for WB/Legendary’s Godzilla Vs Kong on April 2 (note the movie opens on March 31). Regal locations will open more widely on April 16, in time for New Line’s Mortal Kombat. Cineworld and Warner Bros have also hatched a multi-year agreement that will see the No. 2 global exhibitor show the studio’s 2021 theatrical and HBO Max day-and-date titles in the U.S. as of their theatrical release. Then, beginning in 2022, Warner Bros theatrical films will have a 45-day window of theatrical exclusivity at Cineworld’s Regal chain.
With both New York City and Los Angeles theaters reopened, and Covid capacity restrictions expected to rise from 25% to 50% in the near future, Regal’s return is great news for the industry. Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger also called it “a great moment for us — the U.S. market represents 75% of our business — and soon will be followed with all our markets. We are great believers in the theatrical experience, which only a year ago (2019) generated $43B worldwide.”
As for the UK, Cineworld’s second largest market, Warner Bros and Cineworld have agreed to an exclusive theatrical window of 31 days prior to PVOD, and an extended window of 45 days for films that open to an agreed upon box office threshold. Cineworld expects to resume operations in the UK in May, in line with current government guidance.
Regarding the WB deal, Greidinger, who has been a staunch supporter of the theatrical window, said, “We are very happy for the agreement with Warner Bros. This agreement shows the studio’s commitment to the theatrical business and we see this agreement as an important milestone in our 100 year relationship with Warner Bros.”
In October last year, Cineworld said it was temporarily closing 536 Regal theaters in the U.S. and 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse sites in the UK. Later that month, it reopened 11 locations in New York which joined the seven Regal multiplexes which were still operating in California at the time. Then in early November, it reshuttered those sites. And in late November, Cineworld secured significant additional liquidity to help ensure its future despite ongoing challenges created by the pandemic. The company will announce preliminary full-year results this Thursday.
Greidinger told Deadline last year that reopening Cineworld’s theaters would hinge upon a “clear picture of the lineup of the studios… It cannot be one movie only.” The chain opted not to reopen for Warner Bros’ day-and-date theatrical/HBO Max Christmas release of Wonder Woman 1984, making today’s agreement with WB even more notable.
Greidinger further commented today, “We have long awaited this moment when we can welcome audiences back to our Regal theaters and restore our essential role within the communities we serve. With the health and safety of our customers, staff, and communities as our top priority, we continue to take all the necessary precautions and abide by our CinemaSafe guidelines to confidently provide a safe and comfortable experience. With capacity restrictions expanding to 50% or more across most U.S. states, we will be able to operate profitably in our biggest markets. We will also be monitoring developments closely in the UK and across Europe as we set to gradually reopen across the world in line with local government guidance.”