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AMC, Regal, and U.K. theater chains close their doors amid coronavirus pandemic

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Mar 17, 2020

The AMC and Regal movie theater chains — the two biggest in the U.S. — are closing all of their locations around the United States amid the global health scare caused by the coronavirus. Major upscale movie house chain Cinemark also has announced it is closing its theaters indefinitely. Taken together, it's a move that affects almost every city in the country.

AMC, the largest theatrical exhibition company in the U.S., will keep its theaters closed for 6-12 weeks "in compliance with local, state and federal directives," according to Business Wire. Just last week, the company announced it would practice "social distancing" by cutting audience attendance by 50 percent in order to prevent a further spread of the virus. However, that was before the federal government recommended that citizens avoid public gatherings comprised of 10 people or more.

Credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“We are ever so disappointed for our moviegoing guests and for our employee teams that the new CDC guidelines that Americans should not gather in groups larger than 10 people make it impossible to open our theaters," AMC CEO and president Adam Aron said in a statement. "Still, the health and well-being of AMC guests and employees, and of all Americans, takes precedence above all else. We will continue to monitor this situation very closely and look forward to the day we can again delight moviegoers nationwide by reopening AMC movie theaters in accordance with guidance from the CDC and local health authorities.”

Going into effect today, the closing of Regal — which has over 540 theaters around America — was confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter. Regal is owned by Cineworld.

"Any time, at any Regal, it's our goal to provide a safe and healthy environment for our employees and guests," Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger said in a statement to THR Monday. "At this time, we have made the difficult decision to close our theaters. We value our movie-loving customers and have no doubt we will be serving them again as soon as possible with a full slate of Hollywood blockbusters."

Credit: Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Showcase Cinemas, Landmark Theaters, and Alamo Drafthouse have temporarily closed their doors as well.

"When we re-open after this unprecedented and indefinite hiatus, it will be in a dramatically altered world, and in an industry that’s been shaken to its core. We’ll be in close contact over the coming days and weeks with our teams, suppliers, and colleagues on what these closures mean and what we plan to do next," Alamo, which owns 42 locations throughout the U.S., said in a release.

(UPDATED March 17 at 6:45 p.m. ET)

Cinemark also announced it would be closing its U.S. theaters beginning Wednesday, March 18, “until we believe it is safe to once again welcome moviegoers to our auditoriums,” the chain said in a statement on its website.

“The entire Cinemark team cares deeply about our guests, employees and communities, and we have made the incredibly difficult decision to close our U.S. theatres to ensure we are playing our part to slow the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19),” CEO Mark Zoradi said in the statement. “Each of our theatres will be closed beginning Wednesday, March 18, until we believe it is safe to once again welcome moviegoers to our auditoriums.”

The chain, which operates 345 theaters nationwide, is extending the expiration date for members’ Cinemark Movie Rewards points until June 30, and pausing Movie Club memberships while its theaters remain closed. Billing for monthly membership fees will also be suspended, and active members will not lose any of their movie credits, the company added.

The closures aren't just an American phenomenon. Cineplex Odeon and Landmark Cinemas, Canada's biggest movie theater brands (per Deadline), have shuttered, while the three biggest chains in the United Kingdom — Cineworld, Odeon, and Picturehouse — are doing the same (via Variety).

Credit: Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images

In the current climate, studios and production companies are taking a big hit from the coronavirus precautions. Aside from delaying production on their current slate of film and TV projects, studios are also scrambling to figure out a way to get around the theater closure issue.

Yesterday, NBCUniversal announced that it would release certain movies (like Trolls: World Tour) on VOD platforms the same day they open in theaters. Current releases like The Hunt and Invisible Man are also being released early on VOD this Friday. Unfortunately, the phrase "open in theaters" is pretty much irrelevant at this point.


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