Update: Cinemark has also announced it is closing its theaters. A timetable was not given.
In a significant but necessary move, AMC Theaters has decided to close its theaters nationwide for the time-being. The White House announced new national guidelines yesterday to help combat the spread of coronavirus COVID-19, and as part of those guidelines they recommended steering clear of gatherings of 10 people or more for at least the next two weeks. As a result, Regal Cinemas decided to close its theaters across the country, and now AMC—the largest theater circuit in America—is following suit.
AMC had previously decided to institute a policy of limiting theater capacity by 50%, but in the wake of the White House’s new guidelines it was clear that wasn’t enough. The chain announced on Monday that it will close all theaters nationwide “for six to 12 weeks” in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which effectively shuts off a major artery of Hollywood distribution for possibly the next three months.
AMC said it will be pausing A-list subscriptions for the time-being, with no billing or payments due during the duration of the closure, per Variety.
This is a massive move and a decision AMC no doubt did not take lightly, but it will have a significant effect on the entertainment world moving forward. With the nation’s largest theater chain shut down for potentially three months, one imagines most new releases that fall in that window will be postponed or will shift to a VOD release. Indeed, Universal Pictures made waves yesterday by announcing that its recent releases The Hunt, The Invisible Man, and Emma. would be made available to rent for $19.99 starting this Friday, and the animated sequel Trolls: World Tour will also be available VOD for the same price on its originally intended release date in April. Warner Bros. followed suit last night, announcing that the February release Birds of Prey will be hitting VOD early.
Will other new releases scheduled for April and May follow suit, or will studios just delay their films until they can get a theatrical release going like F9 or A Quiet Place – Part II? This feels like a watershed moment for the industry, and it’ll be incredibly interesting to see how it reacts once things go back to “normal.”
But of course for the time-being, the concern lies with potential coronavirus spread and all the employees at these major theater chains. It’s unclear if AMC plans to pay its employees during this downtime, but they did say they remain “flexible” on reopening in accordance with CDC guidelines and governmental directives. So the possibility exists that they could open sooner than this given timetable, although much is still up in the air at the moment.
Alamo Drafthouse, Landmark Theaters, and Cineplex are also closing, and it’s only a matter of time before Cinemark follows suit. For all intents and purposes, movie theaters across the country are now closed for business.