Update, March 17: Cinemark will temporarily close all 345 of its U.S. theaters for an unspecified period of time, effective Wednesday. The decision means all three of country’s largest chains, as well as several smaller ones, are shutting down all their US locations.
Earlier: Regal announced it would shutter all of its 542 American movie theaters starting Tuesday in response to the coronavirus pandemic that continues to wreak havoc around the world (Via Deadline). The move is just the latest blow to theatergoing: New York City and Los Angeles were the two largest areas to order all cinemas to shut their doors as the country’s two largest chains, AMC and Regal, last week mandated a 50 percent seating capacity at all of their locations nationwide within the last week.
Showcase Cinemas, which has 25 theaters in the Northeast, and Landmark Theatres, with about 50 nationwide, followed suit and will close their locations Monday night.
The decisions come on the heels of the worst attended weekend for movies in 40 years. This decision is bound to add to that downward slide, hurting the financial wellbeing of theater chains, studios, and workers.
Regal employs some 25,000 workers in 42 states.
“Any time, at any Regal, it’s our goal to provide a safe and healthy environment for our employees and guests,” Mooky Greidinger, Cineworld CEO told Deadline. “At this time, we have made the difficult decision to close our theatres. We value our movie-loving customers and have no doubt we will be serving them again as soon as possible with a full slate of Hollywood blockbusters.”
In addition to all theaters in the country’s two largest cities being ordered to close their doors over the weekend, local governments in the San Francisco Bay Area on Monday announced that six counties, home to over 6.7 million people, would order people to shelter in place and close most businesses starting Tuesday.
Earlier cinemas were shuttered in Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County, a heavily populated area adjacent to Philadelphia, and New Jersey’s Bergen County, across the Hudson River from Manhattan.
Theaters in China, the world’s second-largest box office, have been closed since the end of January. More recently cinemas were shuttered in the UK on Monday after theaters were closed earlier in Spain, France, Italy, Poland, Denmark, Norway, and Greece as part of lockdown measures.
Meantime, studios are beginning to shatter the heretofore-sacred theatrical window. Universal on Monday announced it would make “The Hunt,” “The Invisible Man,” and “Emma.” — all currently playing in theaters — available on demand for a suggested price of $19.99 in the US beginning early as Friday. The studio suggested other theatrical releases would follow suit.
On Sunday, Disney also made “Frozen 2” available to stream on Disney+ three months earlier than planned.
The bleak state of exhibition in the US comes amid the virus’ staggering impact on daily life here and across the globe. Worldwide, over 170,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 6,500 people have died, as of Monday.
New York, LA, Washington, D.C., and Hoboken, New Jersey have ordered all restaurants and bars to close their doors, except for delivery or takeout, a policy implemented at the statewide level in Ohio, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Washington. That comes as a huge number of employers have implemented work-from-home policies.
This story has been updated.