With Hollywood Still Nervous, Regal Theater Chain on the Verge of Closing

(AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

 

Theaters worldwide are running fine but American skittishness is having a negative impact.

The announcement has come down today that Cineworld — parent company of the Regal Cinemas theater chain — is on the verge of closing down its operations, at least until next spring, in reaction to ongoing issues with a lack of ticket buyers. As there had been lasting hope at closures being eased and titles becoming available the extension of these restrictions has been a drain on the company.

Governmental restrictions, audience fears, studio hesitancy — all have been delivering nightmarish migraines for the owners of movie theaters across the country. With maybe the exception of drive-in theaters, which have been experiencing a mini-renaissance this year, exhibitors have been popping antacid tablets in a fashion that audiences usually consume popcorn. That one of the biggest chains is considering a stark move like this has all in the industry watching warily.

In theaters right now, the latest action epic from the always high-quality director Christopher Nolan is ”Tenet’’. It is a big-budget time-bending set piece that is doing some surprisingly strong business. Worldwide, the film has recently crossed the $300 million level, but there is not all good news coming in for the studio, Warner Brothers — nor Hollywood in general.

While the box office take in this COVID-era environment is respectable, the hitch is that this is strictly an overseas success. Of that gross, less than 15% came from North America, as the title has barely made $45 million here in domestic theaters. Considering its healthy budget of $200 million, add in the promotional costs, then factor in that in foreign territories studios receive on average a 40% take, this is a film that needs to probably clear $500 million before Warners begins to see a profit.

What was thought to be the film to force open the doors on American theaters and see audiences arriving anew has instead made studios wary. After seeing the tepid domestic reaction to ”Tenet’’, titles expected to be arriving are now being shifted further out on the schedule, and this is far more disastrous than anything displayed on those screens. The latest James Bond thriller ”No Time To Die’’ was going to be released in late November (a move from its original April 2020 release date) but now, the studio MGM is shifting it to a Spring 2021 date.

In similar fashion, another anticipated blockbuster ”Wonder Woman 1984’’ has been moved once again. The sequel to the hit film was once rescheduled to August, then pushed to this month, and now has a new tentative release set for Christmas. Also announced this week was the Gerard Butler environmental thriller ”Greenland’’ being taken off of the schedule. Once moved to a September release it has been in foreign theaters already, ranked as the #1 film in over 20 markets. Studio STX Films has decided to bring the title to Video On Demand sometime this fall.

These nervous schedule changes from Hollywood means that Regal — the second-largest theater chain with close to 550 cinemas — is shuttering, at least until it makes sense to reopen with a promise of revenues. Two of the major theater markets, California and New York, remain closed, with little in the way of promise of reopening on a firm date to rely upon. This means it is looking to be more sensible for Regal to cut its current losses and hope for an earlier return to normalcy. Otherwise, the exhibitor landscape going into next year will be a completely altered reality, and the long term impacts on the industry as a whole will be completely in flux.