Image Courtesy of Adrian Torres (theater is The Rio, A Fine Arts Group Theater)
At first it started small. Movie Theaters in major cities hit by the coronavirus, shut there doors as a precaution. Then, studios pulled their films from the March, April and May release windows. The CDC’s guidelines on limiting gatherings caused them to reduce capacity to 50%. Days later it was 50 per showing. What happened next was a big blow. The writing was on the wall, but the thought of it happening was unprecedented and weird. It wasn’t until the press releases and emails went out, that it became real.
First, Regal stated they were closing theaters for the for the foreseeable future. Landmark came next, including the subsidiaries they control. Alamo Drafthouse, that big upstart that usually bucks trends, followed too. Smaller groups, local theaters and specialty houses weren’t far behind. The last remaining big chain, B&B Theaters, closed their theaters this morning. With that move brings an entire industry into an uncertain future.
Deadline has an interesting piece, stating that 20% of theaters are still in operation. Though those could be in the process of closing, as directives start to take effect on city and countywide levels. More startling is the prediction that $2 Billion could be lost at the box office in the future. A number like that doesn’t just effect higher up execs, but the average industry worker too.
If you didn’t see AMC up there, that on purpose. While they were round the fourth to make the decision, they were different in one big way. Namely, they set a time table. AMC went out of their way to state that they expected to be closed for “6-12 weeks”. That’s a giant net to cast. One that greatly calls into question what will become of the future of the film world. Not just this summer, but the remainder of the year and probably the next.
As discussed a couple days ago, movie studios themselves are finding a way to combat the quarantine lots of people find themselves under. Universal, DreamWorks and Focus are releasing a recent crop of theatrical films, onto VOD, in just a few days. Warner Bros is doing the same with movies that just left theaters, next week. While they aren’t “purchases”, but 48 hour rentals, the price tag ($19.99 for most) attached to them suggests the former.
Speaking personally, as someone who moonlights as a host at a couple theaters, as well as spent years managing theaters, this news is crazy. A necessary preventative measure? Yes. Nevertheless a crazy reality to hold. If theaters close for a long period of time, it could cause irreparable damage. Living in an place, where within a 30 mile radius, there’s 28 movie theaters, that’s a major economic blow. Not to mention the experience of going to a theater. Which, again, is a necessary thing to forfeit, at this time. The hope is, once the current cloud lifts and things return to a semblance of normalcy there will be a rejuvenated interest in going to the cinema. We’re crossing out fingers here that will indeed be the case.
With all the doom and gloom surrounding things right now, that’s not how it will stay. We’ll be soldiering on with coverage from all corners. Some VOD reviews, a constant rotation of podcasts, news galore. You name it, we’ll keep covering it.