Cineworld Group Plc is set to shutter its theaters in the U.K. and the U.S. as the coronavirus continues to heap pressure on the film industry
The exhibition giant said Monday that 536 Regal cinemas in the U.S. and 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse venues in the U.K. would close on Thursday. Some 45,000 employees are affected.
The move comes after Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on Friday canceled the November debut of the new James Bond movie, pulling the plug on one of the few big films left on the 2020 release calendar. In the U.S., Cineworld's Regal Entertainment Group is closing all its operations while current circumstances persist.
With MGM's "No Time to Die" delayed for a second time, and now scheduled for release in April, movie-theater operators are facing up to a grim reality. Before MGM's decision, numerous other major pictures had been pushed back, leaving cinemas in an awkward place: allowed to operate, but with no movies to show.
The company says that with major markets such as New York closed and no guidance on when they will reopen, “studios have been reluctant to release their pipeline of new films.”
Without these releases, the company can’t give customers “the breadth of strong commercial films necessary for them to consider coming back to theaters against the backdrop of COVID-19.’’
Theater bosses had been hoping that the industry's prospects would be starting to turn around by now, with AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. and others expressing confidence that the release of "Tenet" and other blockbusters would help to boost ticket sales. In the four weeks since its U.S. release on Sept. 3, the $200 million production generated just a little over $40 million.
The industry received another blow as Disney made the surprise announcement that it would debut "Mulan" on its own streaming service, while Warner Bros. decided to push back the planned October release of "Wonder Woman 1984" to Christmas Day.
Such releases could slip again if consumers continue to stay away from theaters or reopenings get pushed back. And even with their screens open, exhibitors will continue to lose money if too many seats go unsold.