The entire theatrical market has been hit hard by COVID-19, but there is some optimism in sight for exhibitors right now. Vaccines have begun to reach more people in the past couple months, and a recent sharp decline in new cases has led to a big moment for New York City moviegoers. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that cinemas across the city’s five boroughs will be allowed to reopen starting next week. It’s great news, but not every movie theater is speeding through the green light.
Now AMC Theatres is jumping at the chance to provide a place for movie fans to enjoy films on the big screen starting next Friday. The chain will be opening all 13 of its venues just in time for new theatrical releases, such as Raya and the Last Dragon and Chaos Walking. But Regal Cinemas, the second largest circuit in the nation, will remain closed for now. Regal Cinemas offered some insight as to why in an official statement:
We are encouraged by the recent announcement regarding the opening of theatres in New York City. Big movies are made for the big screen and once LA opens, we are confident in the studios holding their release dates for news movies allowing us to reopen our theatres.
In simpler terms, Regal Cinemas is waiting for Los Angeles to receive the thumbs up too before it decides to resume operations. This makes sense for a few reasons. For one, exhibitors cannot truly get back to business and make top dollar until the biggest markets in New York City and Los Angeles open. Once Los Angeles gets the go-ahead, that will most likely mean that studios can cement movie’s release dates in the lineup and actually open the door for upcoming blockbusters like Godzilla & Kong or Marvel’s Black Widow to come out to a sizable audience.
Although one might think that the opening of theaters would be all good news for exhibitors, it’s still a risk, and there’s a lot of room for more losses if not enough people are going for both theaters and studios to make a profit. The theaters that do open on March 5 will be operating at a 25% capacity, or up to 50 people in the theater. And time will tell if moviegoers opt to return to theaters at a time when streaming services are offering more than ever, including Warner Bros’ full slate of 2021 movies coming out on HBO Max at the same time as new releases. After all, Wonder Women 1984’s premiere on the platform over the holidays drew a lot of new subscribers.
Within the past year, studios have been adjusting to the pandemic, and so have our own habits regarding how we watch movies. This week, Paramount announced that its upcoming movies A Quiet Place Part II and Top Gun: Maverick will be available to stream on its coming platform, Paramount+, just 45 days after coming to theaters, which offers yet another new avenue to watch movies at home.
Ultimately, the news of some New York City theaters opening next week is a good sign and a solid step toward theaters becoming relevant again. Once Los Angeles makes its move, Regal Cinemas sounds like it's ready to get back to business.