As the outbreak of the coronavirus wreaks havoc on the world, New York City and Los Angeles have ordered the closure of all movie theaters within their city limits. The news follows a wave of cancellations and postponements throughout the industry, including the shuttering of movie theaters throughout San Francisco — where no more than 100 people can gather — and capped seating capacities at theater chains including AMC and Regal. Currently in New York City, no more than 50 people can be in the same place anywhere, which is a challenge for a city that thrives on public transportation.
Following New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to close all movie theaters as of 9:00am ET on Tuesday March 17, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti issued the same order. Los Angeles theaters will close at midnight on Sunday, until, at this stage, March 31.
In a series of tweets, de Blasio wrote “Our lives are all changing in ways that were unimaginable just a week ago. We are taking a series of actions that we never would have taken otherwise in an effort to save the lives of loved ones and our neighbors. Now it is time to take yet another drastic step. The virus can spread rapidly through the close interactions New Yorkers have in restaurants, bars and places where we sit close together. We have to break that cycle. Tomorrow, I will sign an Executive Order limiting restaurants, bars and cafes to food take-out and delivery. Nightclubs, movie theaters, small theater houses, and concert venues must all close. The order will go into effect Tuesday, March 17 at 9:00 AM. This is not a decision I make lightly. These places are part of the heart and soul of our city. They are part of what it means to be a New Yorker. But our city is facing an unprecedented threat, and we must respond with a wartime mentality.”
The shutdown of movie houses in New York began on Friday, as the IFC Center temporarily closed its doors, as did the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn. New York is also taking another big hit as all Broadway performances have also been halted. All major museums, many of which feature film programming such as at MoMA, have been closed as well. New York’s flagship indie film festival Tribeca announced the postponed of its 2020 edition on Thursday, without a future date in place.
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The closure of movie theaters is bad news for the entire industry, already on hold from both a production and distribution standpoint amid the outbreak. But it’s not unexpected. The weekend box office was dire, even with Disney/Pixar’s family-friendly “Onward” in theaters (taking a big dip from its opening last weekend) and kids being out of school: IndieWire’s box office analyst Tom Brueggemann said it was the worst attended weekend for movie theaters in 40 years.
As studios shift release dates for major titles, from Disney’s “Mulan” to Paramount Pictures’ “A Quiet Place II,” there is increasingly less product for audiences to flock to in theaters anyway. Disney, however, responded to the crisis by making “Frozen 2” available to stream on Disney+ beginning Sunday, March 15, while “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is now available to stream, in hopes of easing the pain as moviegoers are forced to stay home.
It’s becoming near impossible to keep track of the industry fallout incited by the coronavirus outbreak, as more than 155,000 global cases have been confirmed and counting. Here all the films, events, and festivals affected by the virus so far.