It’s a grim time for the movie exhibition industry worldwide, but especially in the U.S., where the biggest movie theater markets, including New York City and L.A., never even reopened during their states’ phased reopening this summer and autumn. Those theaters have now been closed ever since March, and the news only got more dire last week when Regal, the country’s second biggest theater chain, announced it was shutting down again in the face of pandemic complications only two months after it had reopened.
Given that tide of negative momentum, one has to wonder how long the country’s largest cinema chain, AMC Theatres, can really hold on—especially after the company stated today that its “existing cash resources would be largely depleted by the end of 2020 or early 2021,” if the current climate continues. The company stated that in order to meet its financial obligations as they come due, “the company will require additional sources of liquidity or increases in attendance levels.”
Christopher Nolan’s Tenet was meant to be the beginning of a revival for theaters when it arrived in September, but poor attendance and box office in the U.S. seemed to reveal that consumers weren’t ready to risk their health to visit a movie theater just yet. That disappointment then set off a cascading series of delays, resulting in some films being pushed back to the winter (Wonder Woman 1984) and many others being pushed into 2021, such as Marvel’s Black Widow, No Time to Die, Ghostbusters: Afterlife or Candyman. And then there are the films that have now skipped theatrical distribution entirely by going straight to streaming services or VOD, including Trolls World Tour, Mulan and Pixar’s Soul. Every one of those changes results in fewer viable films being able to hit theaters, which justifies the choice of a company like Regal to close its cinemas. Companies like AMC are currently withering on the vine without any compelling films to exhibit, and the delays just keep coming. Short of a very successful vaccine for the coronavirus pandemic, it’s hard to say what will end the cycle.
AMC made veiled comment to the Regal closure in their statement, saying that “Certain competitors have decided to temporarily reclose their theatres in light of the ongoing pandemic and the reduced slate of movie releases, which may further exacerbate the trend.”
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Even when the pandemic has finally passed for good, the movie theater industry will likely never look the same.