Covid, vax cards, dynamic windows — whatever you throw out at exhibition boss Mooky Greidinger and his No. 2 global theatrical circuit, Cineworld, which includes Regal in the U.S., he’s determined that the big screen experience will prevail. We talk with him today on the first day of CinemaCon about the various hurdles facing domestic movie theaters as the motion picture industry struggles to come out of this pandemic.
DEADLINE: Regal didn’t play Paw Patrol this weekend. Is that because it went day-and-date domestically? How far are you willing to bend for day-and-date releases going forward? You are a big supporter of the window, but you also recently released Disney’s Black Widow and Jungle Cruise even though they were streaming simultaneously.
MOOKY GREIDINGER: We didn’t reach an agreement with Paramount with regard to Paw Patrol. We are open to discussions on any window. If we can reach an agreement which is good for the studio and for us, then it’s fine, but sometimes you can’t reach an agreement, it happens.
DEADLINE: Do you think Netflix will ever come around to a theatrical window?
GREIDINGER: I will be very happy if Netflix will acknowledge that for some of their bigger movies, a theatrical release with a window can be very positive for them and for us.
DEADLINE: Would you program a Netflix movie if it was on a 17-day window like a Focus or A24 release?
GREIDINGER: I don’t believe in negotiating with our partners or potential partners through the media. We are negotiating and talking to everyone and if we can reach a good agreement, then we will be happy to do it and we’ll see what the number of days will be. The main issue is that in general a window of a certain length is essential for the success of the movie and the success of the cinema. I think everyone is now aware that if the window is too short, the impact of piracy is much bigger, even than the legal home entertainment availability and no one likes that their product is exploited for free.
DEADLINE: Do you think vaccination cards in the U.S. will really impact business negatively, as the health pass has in France and Italy?
GREIDINGER: I can say that it might affect visitation for a few weeks — maybe two or three. However, from what we see, we can say clearly that in Israel, which became a kind of lab for the world, that once the third dose comes into effect, it has a great impact. Both the U.S. and UK are going to start the third dose in September and we are even more confident and will for sure have our customers back.
DEADLINE: Looking back now, was it the right move to re-close Regal Cinemas when you did last fall? Do you wish you had done anything differently?
GREIDINGER: No, we would have made the same decision. I think it was one of our best decisions through this crisis. We had many difficult decisions to make in the last 18 months and this was one that was very important and paid back in a big way. I think anyone who has analyzed our financial reports for the first six months will understand. We burned much less in cash because we were closed.
DEADLINE: You also used that time to rebuild and refurbish domestically. What is the situation there?
GREIDINGER: We opened a few new cinemas and we have completed 14 refurbishments around the U.S. We did not start new projects because we had to be careful and responsible with cash. We completed the projects that we started pre-Covid.
DEADLINE: And are you working on new projects?
GREIDINGER: Yes, we are currently completing two or three projects. We are about to go back, but not at the same level as planned before — not until the Covid situation will be clear. We are about to start a few projects where landlords are participating with us in the capital investment.
DEADLINE: What about Sherman Oaks Arclight? Is that getting a Regal rebranding?
GREIDINGER: Yes, it is a Regal already and it is open. Regal Sherman Oaks will be refurbished all the way and we are working now on submitting a building permit for the refurbishment. We hope we will soon have news with regards to a timetable.
DEADLINE: You’ve told us before you think the theatrical business will get back to normal by the end of this year; do you still believe that?
GREIDINGER: It has a lot to do with the way that the world will learn to live with Covid. I think currently, most of the governments took the direction of how to live with Covid and not how to run away from it. I believe that with the strong lineup of the fourth quarter, we will be close to 2019 business, subject of course to no new dramatic surprises. 2022 will be already a year where we operate even better and continue to give our customers the best experience that we can in the cinemas. The lineup for 2022 is very strong.
DEADLINE: Do you think the polls about moviegoers’ comfort levels during the pandemic are real? Or are people showing they’re unafraid to go to the movies, much like they’re unafraid to go to a grocery store?
GREIDINGER: I would say there are various opinions and various types of behavior. I guess that most of the people around the world want to go back as close as possible to what we used to call ‘normal life’ — and this includes schools, cinemas, vacations and any other activity. So we might be going for a while whilst wearing masks, we might do another dose of vaccination, we might need to be careful here and there, but in general, we see the reaction from people that are coming back to the movies and they are saying, “We are so happy to be back in the cinema. It’s such a big difference to see the movie on the big screen.” So, I think it’s going in a positive direction. The same as people want to be in restaurants, or on the beach, or at a big football game. We are adjusting now, as countries, as people and as governments — we are adjusting to the best way to live with the Covid on our side.
DEADLINE: When you say people express their joy at returning to the cinema, is there a specific demographic?
GREIDINGER: The early demographic of people that are adopting the cinema again are of course the younger population — anywhere up to 35 or 40. We feel a little bit of hesitancy from the more mature population. However, we need to remember that also in the summer, the kinds of movies that are being released are not really the type that the more mature population are looking for. Some of them of course like very much to see the superhero movies and the big action stars and comedies, but once we go into the fall and also the Academy Awards movies will start to appear and the more mature movies, we will see also these people back at the cinema.
DEADLINE: It’s been more than two years since we’ve been gathered for CinemaCon; what does it mean to you to be back?
GREIDINGER: We are very excited to be back in CinemaCon, despite the circumstances. This to us, is a very important event — especially as we are bringing all our 500 Regal managers from all over the United States. These guys really held the line for us, as many other cinema managers from other circuits did. These are the people that are spending every day in the cinemas to meet the customers, to explain about the masks and restrictions and ensuring we operate in a safe way. They really had a very, very tough time — reopening was, and still is, very challenging. To greet the people back and to get used to the new reality. I think for us in Regal, the fact that all of them are coming to CinemaCon is making CinemaCon more important than usual for us — they are a great team and it will be a great fruitful week to spend with them.