Theaters Might Stay Closed in States Allowing Them to Reopen

(Bloomberg) -- Cinema owners are getting the green light to reopen later this month in some U.S. states, but they might not be ready to restart operations until later in the year.

Film studios won’t start putting out new blockbusters until at least mid-July, meaning theaters would have to show older films that might not draw enough customers to pay operating costs, according to a statement from the National Association of Theatre Owners. And when they reopen, cinema owners expect they’ll have to honor social distancing rules that force them to cap ticket sales for months.

Two of the largest U.S. theater chains, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. and Cinemark Holdings Inc., said earlier this month that they anticipate reopening in July. Cineworld Group Plc’s Regal, the second-largest chain in the U.S., said Tuesday it hadn’t decided whether it would open closed venues in Georgia. The state’s governor has authorized cinemas to operate again starting April 27.

“In order to open our theaters, at first we will need to ensure the safety of our guests and employees,” a Regal spokesman said in an email. “At the same time, we are working closely with our studio partners on when they will make their movies available.”

Studios have faced tough choices about films that were supposed to premiere in the first half of 2020. Most have chosen to delay highly anticipated blockbusters, such as the James Bond installment “No Time to Die” and Marvel movie “Black Widow.” But executives are unsure how strong box-office revenue will be when audiences are able to return.

AT&T Inc. Chief Operating Officer John Stankey said Wednesday he is “rethinking the theatrical model” because of the coronavirus pandemic. The telecom giant, which owns Warner Bros., has made some movies available on demand earlier than it normally would because theaters are closed. It also chose to skip the theatrical release of Scooby-Doo film “Scoob!” entirely, and make it available to at-home audiences immediately.

“It’s always hard to generate revenue, and don’t expect that’s going to be a snap-back,” he said in an earnings call. “I think that’s going to be something that we’re going to have to watch, the formation of consumer confidence, not just about going to movies, just in general about being back out public.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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