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In a blow to the future of live cinema – Regal shutting down all U.S. 536 theaters

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Struggling cinemas may not survive the impact of the pandemic

On Thursday, October 8th, Regal Cinemas­— the second largest movie theater chain in America­—will be shutting its doors to audiences. This occurs as British parent company Cineworld deems the market far too unstable for its theaters to continue operating through the pandemic.

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Cineworld owns 536 theaters in the United States and 127 in the UK. All of them will be closed indefinitely by the end of the week. According to the New York Times, these closures will impact 40,000 employees in the U.S. and over 5,000 in Europe. 

Many theaters have been holding on for dear life since COVID-19 arrived this year. Most were forced to shut their doors in April and have only reopened within the past couple months— notably for the release of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet.”

While “Tenet” should have been a blockbuster hit, though, the $200 million budget film only managed to earn $300 million at the box office. Evidently, even if the theaters are open, audiences are still tepid about returning to the cinema.

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Simultaneously, “Tenet’s” underperformance showed studios that they remain better off waiting to releasing their films or moving them onto other platforms. Unfortunately, this means a shortage of product for the theaters.

The dominos are falling with Bond as the last straw

Non-coincidentally then, Cineworld decided to close up just days after MGM delayed the release of its 25th James Bond movie, “No Time To Die.” This is the second time the film has been pushed back, as it was originally billed for this Spring, but was delayed until November, and now won’t see the screen until next April.

In fact, almost all of the 2020 blockbusters have seen perpetual delays. Warner Brother’s “Wonder Woman: 1984” was supposed to come out earlier this year, but is now aiming for a Christmas release. Likewise, Marvel’s “Black Widow” was meant to be a summer sensation, but now sits on the backburner until 2021. Meanwhile, Disney’s “Mulan” went straight to the company’s streaming site, for the premium price of $30 on top of the monthly subscription fee.

Clearly, “No Time To Die” was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back for Cineworld.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cineworld had already lost $1.6 billion in the first half of 2020. Now, on top of moviegoer’s concerns about COVID, there is not enough exciting content to get people into the cinema.

Perhaps people would risk going to the movies to see a new James Bond, Marvel, or DC film, but with these releases being continually postponed, staying open becomes a major and unrewarding gamble for theater owners.

Part of the struggle may also be tied to a reticence to consider theaters amongst other indoor businesses that warrant reopening. New York City and Los Angeles, for example, provide a huge portion of domestic audiences, but their respective government officials have been nervous about letting people return to the cinema. Without such hubs being operational, ticket prices will inevitably fall short of expectations.

As of right now, there is no telling when Regal Cinemas might reopen, or if other theater chains will follow in its footsteps. All of that depends heavily on how the country and its leaders deal with the coronavirus.

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