After seven weeks, the campaign by American movie theaters to reopen amid the pandemic has collapsed. With the nation’s second largest chain, Regal Cinemas, closing all its locations this week and studios beginning yet another wave of postponements of big movies, the industry now faces a long winter of uncertainty and possible widespread bankruptcy.
The dominoes started to fall when MGM announced last week that it would move the release of the James Bond film “No Time to Die” from November to April 2021 thanks in part to a second wave of COVID-19 infections in the U.K. that is even larger than the one the country faced last spring. Within days Cineworld announced that it would indefinitely close Regal Cinemas as well as its U.K. and Irish theaters this week — decimating about 45,000 jobs.
It’s unclear if other U.S. exhibitors will follow suit, though a rep for No. 3 chain Cinemark said Monday there are no plans for a total shutdown — though some locations may not operate seven days a week.
However, studios may force theaters’ hands as Warner Bros. has pushed “Dune” — initially set for release next month — to late 2021, and more moves are expected in the coming days. While some studio films like Universal’s animated sequel “The Croods: A New Age” and Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman 1984” are still slated for release during the holiday season, analysts say they expect those films will move too.