This Monday, the U.S. box office saw its worst weekend in the 22-year history that exhibitors had been recording box office numbers. And it looks like things will only get worse, as the escalating coronavirus pandemic closes more businesses and movie theaters. With all the major movie theaters closing their locations across the U.S., a mere 20% of theaters remaining open in the country, and studios delaying most of their major releases amid coronavirus concerns, studios could lose as much as $2 billion.
With Cinemark shutting down its 345 U.S. theaters Tuesday, that marks the last of the major theatrical chains — alongside AMC, Regal, Cineplex Odeon, Marcus, Harkins — to close in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Only 20% of theaters across the U.S. remain open, but in the wake of the Centers for Dieases Control’s recommendation against gatherings of 50 people or more for the next 8 weeks, even more could close while local theaters face permanent shuttering. And what could that mean for the entertainment industry at large? According to Deadline, those closures could see the movie theaters and Hollywood studios taking a devastating financial hit that could amount to as much as a $2 billion loss.
The nation’s biggest movie theater chain, AMC Theatres, is already teetering on the edge, according to a report from The Wrap. The chain has closed all of its locations in the U.S. and U.K. for the next six to 12 weeks, which has left them in a state of uncertainty that has only exacerbated AMC’s already unstable economic status. The debt-laden exhibitor’s stock dropped 83% last year, and this Tuesday . its market cap has shrunk to just $271 million. Eric Schiffer, CEO of private equity firm The Patriarch Organization, doubts that AMC could survive the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re witnessing the single greatest disruption of the film industry in American history,” Schiffer told The Wrap. “It’s a horrifying example of how vulnerable the ecosystem has become.”
Regal Cinemas has already began furloughing employees, including film buyers, according to Deadline. But some exhibitors remain optimistic that the second half of 2020 could allow them to rebound and make up for lost ground. Deadline’s report claims that theaters and studios are exploring options as to how the moviegoing landscape could look when restrictions are loosened. Perhaps a return to 50% occupancy? Studios could release films immediately, or restart their marketing campaigns to regain momentum? Blockbuster films like Black Widow, Mulan, and highly anticipated sequels like A Quiet Place Part II are considered potential saving graces for theaters, as they already have a built-in audience. But that would require the willingness of major studios like Disney to release the films sooner than later.
It’s all uncertain, and very possible that the box office’s biggest season, the summer blockbuster block, could be disrupted if the coronavirus pandemic stretches on. But we’ll have to see. For now, it’s looking pretty bleak for movie theaters.
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