With every day comes a new report of someone having contracted the novel (which is to say distinct) coronavirus that has the world on high alert. Right now, the smartest thing people who don’t feel sick can do is to minimize the amount of time they spend in public spaces, and theater chains are doing their part to make that clear.
Deadline reports that as of today, all of AMC’s 630 theaters in the United States are set to close from six to 12 weeks in response to the ongoing covid-19 outbreak (UK theater chains have also closed) that has the potential to become much, much worse because of the slipshod way that the government responded to the crisis in its earlier moments.
The AMC closures come as other big names in the theater space like Regal (542 theaters), Alamo Drafthouse (40 theaters), and Cinemark (345 theaters) are taking similar measures to make it clear that people going to see the movies is not what they should be doing right this moment. “Any time, at any Regal, it’s our goal to provide a safe and healthy environment for our employees and guests,” Mooky Greidinger, Cineworld CEO, told Deadline.
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“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,” read Alamo’s statement. “To try and assist as many staff members as possible, we’re working with the Emergency Assistance Foundation to expand and streamline our Alamo Family Fund in order to be able to respond to the increased need for emergency assistance by those affected. Alamo Drafthouse, through the AlamoGives initiative, has committed up to $2 million to this relief fund.”
New York City and Los Angeles have also shut down theaters, because until there is a reliable means of inoculating the public from contracting covid-19, theaters are the perfect setting in which the virus can be easily spread. These measures actively support our current reality in which it’s simply not safe for people to be gathered in places where it’s more than likely that they’d transmit a potentially deadly disease to one another.
But as things continue, what’s going to become a pressing question is if theaters will be drastically harmed in a financial sense by the virus’ spread and how long said harm will affect the industry. Studios are actively shutting down the production of movies meant to come out in the near future, but with covid-19 making it too dangerous to be out and about, the reality of the situation is that going to theaters is similarly inadvisable, and while that may be distressing to folks, what everyone (who can) needs to do right now is to stay home.
With this in mind, the National Association of Theater Owners also put out a statement of its own emphasizing the gravity of our current situation, but also making sure to emphasize that the movie industry still isn’t prepared to take the financial hit that the outbreak could present.
“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 read. “To avoid catastrophic losses to the studios, these titles must have the fullest possible theatrical release around the world. 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. When those titles are rescheduled, they 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.”
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