Movie theaters, film industry take financial hit during COVID-19 outbreak

If you can't remember the last time you went to see a movie, out of fear of the coronavirus, you're not alone. After months of being closed, movie theaters tried to reopen, but at least one chain has decided it can't continue, for now.

Regal Cinemas is the second-largest theater chain in the country. Like others, it tried to reopen with COVID-19 safety protocols in place, but a weekend studio announcement showed all that effort was not enough.


MGM Studios announced it is, again, delaying the release of the new James Bond film 'No Time To Die' to next Spring. With huge expectations for the movie, the studio says there just aren't enough movie-goers to cover the costs.

For Regal Cinemas, this latest setback means fewer new movies are available to draw-in customers. The few titles that are showing are largely re-releases, and the schedule reflects, after Thursday, screens will go dark.

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"There were so many delays: Mulan was moved to Disney+; Top Gun was moved to next year," says Backstage OL's Dave Morales, "I think Regal was waiting to see what was going to happen with James Bond, and when MGM came out and made it official, I think that sealed the deal."

But it's not all about movies being delayed. When the expected blockbuster 'Tenet' was released, in September, audiences didn't show. Despite decent reviews, it made just $45 million dollars in domestic receipts against it's $205 million dollar budget. While theaters and studios may be able to recoup some costs through streaming and pay-per-view, for smaller films, it will not be enough to pay all the bills.

"You need to have theaters open," says SMU Meadows School of Arts professor Andy Draper, "You need to be in 3,000 theaters; you gotta have New York and LA open, and you gotta' do great overseas. If all that comes together, you can make a billion dollars, but without that, you're not going to get anywhere close."

Regal Cinemas will idle as many as 45,000 employees, when they close and say they'll keep monitoring developments for when they might reopen. Meantime, Cinemark Theaters have indicated plans to stay open while AMC Theaters have been silent on their future plans.