Tue. Mar 31st, 2020

Amid Virus Crisis, Theater Owners Remain Positive, Say Moviegoing “Will Return to Normal”

As major movie theater chains shutter across the U.S., the main lobbying group representing exhibitors on Tuesday aimed to assess the landscape and calm fears in the industry. 

“No one can precisely predict when public life will return to normal, but it will return,” the National Association of Theatre Owners stated in a bullish note.

NATO looked to refute the notion that the unprecedented shutdown will lead to Hollywood studios bypassing traditional theatrical windows in the future. Over the weekend, the top 10 films domestically grossed less than $60 million collectively at the box office. 

“Although there has been speculation in the media that the temporary closure of theaters will lead to accelerated or exclusive releases of theatrical titles to home streaming, such speculation ignores the underlying financial logic of studio investment in theatrical titles,” the statement said.

The theater group added, “While one or two releases may forgo theatrical release, it is our understanding from discussions with distributors that the vast majority of deferred releases will be rescheduled for theatrical release as life returns to normal.”

On Monday night, AMC Theatres — the country’s largest chain — announced it was shuttering for at least six to 12 weeks, potentially disrupting the prime summer release calendar.

Earlier the same day, NBCUniversal said it is releasing its current slate of films, along with April’s Trolls World Tour, on premium VOD early because of the extraordinary circumstances facing the film industry.

Disney also brought Frozen 2 to its streamer Disney+ early, while Warner Bros.’ Birds of Prey and STX’s The Gentlemen will be available earlier on demand and debut on March 24. 

NATO said the delay of high-profile tentpoles “will make for an even fuller slate of offerings than normal as they are slotted into an already robust release schedule later in the year.”

The largest circuits in the U.S., including AMC Theatres (643 locations) and Regal Cinemas (543 locations), said Monday that they were temporarily shutting down all locations indefinitely. So, too, did smaller chains like Alamo Drafthouse, Showcase Cinemas, Landmark Theaters, ArcLight Cinemas and NCG Cinemas. 

On Tuesday, Disney unveiled more titles that it has pulled from its release schedule, including its May releases. Those include Marvel Studios’ Black Widow (which had been set for a May 1 bow) as well as Searchlight’s The Personal History of David Copperfield (May 8) and 20th’s Amy Adams thriller Woman in the Window (May 15). 

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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett

Photographs are Courtesy:  Universal; Warner Bros.

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