It may be sunny just about every day in Los Angeles, the film capital of the world, but for about a year now, the big California city has faced the highest volume of COVID-19 numbers. Movie theaters across Los Angeles County have remained closed since coronavirus lockdowns went into effect last spring. But finally, the state’s health department has given exhibitors the go ahead to open for business, and it’s happening soon.
Since Los Angeles County moved from the red to purple tier this week, California Governor Gavin Newsom has eased COVID-19 guidelines, allowing movie theaters to open next weekend starting next Friday, March 19. Theaters will allow for movie showings with health restrictions in place and a capacity limited to 25%, following suit with New York City’s theaters re-opening for the first time since the pandemic just this past weekend.
AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron has already confirmed that the chain will officially be opening back up again on March 19 “no matter what,” following the state’s announcement. Cinemark hasn’t announced an official reopening date just yet, but a spokesperson for the theater said it will “look forward to sharing a reopening update” once government restrictions have fully rolled out.
In the coming days, we expect more big theater chains and private theaters to notify its customers about its path to reopening. Los Angeles theaters turning their lights back on is a major development for the movie industry as a whole considering the county contributed to 9% of all box office revenue back in 2019, as opposed to 7.4% for New York City, per THR. It’s a step that could instill confidence into studios such as Disney, which is hoping to show its tentpole Marvel film Black Widow this May.
At the moment, about 45% of theaters are open across North America with COVID-19 restrictions in place. The Los Angeles announcement offers some hope for theaters to get back into business, and for studios to make more money on their films ahead of streaming and VOD deals, considering a number of chains have filed for bankruptcy amidst the health crisis.
Warner Bros recently saw some hopeful numbers with the release of the live-action Tom & Jerry movie, which became the second movie to make more than $10 million in its opening weekend since the pandemic started. Tom & Jerry has already made $57 million worldwide despite also being available day-and-date over on HBO Max. Disney’s latest film, Raya and the Last Dragon, surprisingly made comparatively less this past weekend, but hey, we’re having box office conversations again… that feels new!
Universal recently jumped the gun and decided to delay the release of its huge films F9 and Minions: The Rise of Gru until late June 2021 and summer 2022, respectively. Of course, if California bounces back and doesn't continued to keep its numbers down, this could all be temporary. We’ll have to wait and see how Los Angeles holds and if it will allow big movies to stay put in the 2021 theatrical calendar.