By Robert Vincent
Cineworld Group, the parent company of Regal Cinemas, shut down all of its United States locations on Oct. 8, citing a lack of tent pole films and New York closures as the reasons why.
This is the second time Regal Cinemas has closed its theaters this year. They closed nationwide in March, amid the initial outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. They reopened in August with social distancing procedures in place.
This latest closure also occurred in other regions, such as the United Kingdom with the Cineworld chain. Together, these have affected about 45,000 employees.
The delaying of “No Time to Die,” an upcoming release in the James Bond franchise, contributed to these closures. Another factor was the release of director Christopher Nolan’s, “Tenet.” Theaters expected “Tenet” to be a hit, but it under performed in the United States. Following these closures, studios moved films such as “Dune” and “The Batman” to later dates.
Christopher Mason, an adjunct humanities professor who teaches the Art of Film course at Seminole State College, discussed how these events could affect both large theater chains and smaller establishments.
“Obviously this is negatively
affect- ing the revenue of theaters,” he said. “Since theaters are a private
of organizations, they aren’t always equipped with measures to deal with things of this nature.”
He went on to say that AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. has made some adjustments. This includes a deal with Universal Pictures, which allows On Demand services to release their films after three weeks in theaters. AMC also has the backing of Wanda Group, a Chinese firm.
Mason said small, privately-owned locations will be the hardest hit, saying that they could close “perhaps permanently.”
Despite these closures, Mason offered an optimistic outlook on the future of theaters.
“Theater, in the general term, has been around since the Ancient Greeks,” he said. “There’s a reason it’s never gone away—there is a clear want for it and people enjoy it immensely (whether a play or a film). The plague couldn’t stop it, COVID-19 won’t stop it either.”
Hollywood currently has a large number of films that have been produced but not released. When asked whether these will lead to congested release dates after the pandemic, Mason said he did not believe so.
“I don’t think you’ll have an issue with overcrowding,” he said. “The film industry knows how to release films in proper ways.
“Plus,” he added, “the production industry was shut down for quite some time, so there might be a lack of film space that would generally have been there had we not been in a pandemic. I think, in general, however, you will see established release dates
changed in some way or another to account for the potential of overcrowding.”
Mason said the closest historical comparison would be the 1918 flu pandemic.
“While films weren’t nearly as profitable or palatable as they are now, you would have seen people stop going to theaters and theater closures during this time,” he said, referring to 1918.
“World War 1 was coming to an end and the film industry, which
was relatively new and exciting, was booming at the opportunity to showcase its technology.”
The bubonic plague, he said, is also an historic comparison, “especially during the time of Shakespeare.”
Mason explained: “I can’t attest to profit loss or changes that occurred, but it did certainly hinder the audience and production of theatrical plays.”
AMC Theaters has chosen to stay open while Regal Cinemas has closed. Mason said this will benefit AMC.
“As the old saying goes, any money is better than no money,” he said. “So, I would assume they are benefitting some, albeit very little. Certainly, nowhere near the amount they would normally have during this time.”
Are any films Mason would want to see, but cannot due to the pandemic and delays. He listed several.
“I would have liked to have seen ‘Tenet’ in theaters as I’m a big Chris- topher Nolan fan, but I’ll have to watch it at home,” Mason said. “I think the Black Widow film would have been nice to see this year as well as part of MCU Phase 4, but I can wait. And of course ‘No Time to Die’ would have been awesome.”
AMC Theaters provided a list of changes that are currently in effect. All of its A-List accounts are on pause until December, Stubs Premiere memberships are extended by six months, and all guests are required to wear masks at their locations.
In a Regal Cinemas’ press release, the company said it will alert consumers to any changes in the closures. As of now, it is waiting for more concrete news on market reopenings.