Has the coronavirus killed this year’s summer blockbuster season?
All 50 states have begun reopening or partially reopening, but movie theaters largely remain closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And with release dates of big movies like “Black Widow,” “No Time to Die,” “F9” and “Top Gun: Maverick” pushed back to late 2020 or even 2021, theaters could stay shuttered for months.
When will movie theaters open again?
“Entertainment” falls under phase four of New York state’s reopening plan. Seven New York state regions, including Central New York, began phase one this past week; each phase requires testing and hospitalization numbers to remain manageable for two weeks before starting the next phase.
That means, at the earliest, Syracuse movie theaters like Regal Cinemas at Destiny USA and the Movie Tavern in Camillus could reopen at the end of June.
Regal and other national theater chains, including AMC Theatres and Cinemark, said they won’t reopen until June or July at the earliest, even if they’re allowed to sooner in other states.
The Indianapolis Star reports most Indiana counties were given the green light to reopen indoor movie theaters at 50% capacity Friday, but theaters largely stayed closed because they don’t have any new movies to show. Georgia allowed movie theaters to reopen on April 27, but the big chains similarly stayed shuttered.
“While some states and localities are beginning to authorize the opening of movie theaters under certain conditions, the movie theater industry is also a national one. Until the majority of markets in the U.S. are open, and major markets in particular, new wide release movies are unlikely to be available. As a result, some theaters in some areas that are authorized to open may be able economically to reopen with repertory product; however, many theaters will not be able to feasibly open,” the National Association of Theater Owners said in a statement last month.
Regal Cinemas and Marcus Theaters, which operates Movie Tavern, did not respond to syracuse.com | The Post-Standard requests for comment.
When will new movies be back in theaters?
Only a handful of movies are still scheduled to come out this summer: Russell Crowe’s “Unhinged” on July 3, Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” on July 17, Disney’s live-action “Mulan” on July 24, and “Wonder Woman 1984″ on Aug. 14. Those release dates could change — the latest “Tenet” trailer simply said “Coming to Theaters” — as studios appear more confident they can release films in the fall with titles like “Halloween Kills” in October, “Godzilla vs. Kong” in November, and “West Side Story” in December.
According to Deadline, independent movie theaters and drive-ins will open before the big chains, but they likely will have to rely on showing older movies. The Fingerlakes Drive-In in Auburn reopened last week and is showing two 2019 releases, “Knives Out” and “The Wretched,” this weekend.
Some new movies like “Trolls World Tour,” “Scoob!” and Pete Davidson’s upcoming “King of Staten Island,” have shifted to digital PVOD (Premium Video On Demand) releases. Tom Hanks’ new World War II film “Greyhound” will head to Apple TV+ instead of theaters.
Cineworld, the parent company of Regal Entertainment, and AMC Theatres were both irked by “Trolls World Tour” and threatened to ban Universal and other studios that “fail to respect” release windows between theaters and video. Universal said it still believes in the theatrical experience, and major franchises like “Mission: Impossible,” “Fast and Furious” and Marvel/DC superhero films will likely never hit VOD before theaters.
What will movie theaters look like when they reopen?
Deadline reports Movie Tavern’s parent company will launch a “low to no contact” experience when it reopens, including a mobile app to buy concessions like popcorn and tickets that will be scanned for entry.
“The usher will be standing six feet away but will assume you have a ticket,” Marcus Theaters CEO Gregory Marcus told other executives on a conference call this week.
Theaters will also be at half capacity, with moviegoers in every other seat, every other row. Marcus said staff will have their temperatures taken daily, wear masks and gloves, and conduct “a very visible sanitation process” in theaters and between shows.
Regal Cinemas’ website says theaters will follow official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health organizations, including cleaning high contact points, providing hand sanitizing soap in all restrooms, and reducing auditorium capacity by 50%. Regal also said it would give customers a new cup or bucket when providing refills of large sodas or popcorn.
But questions still remain. David McRae, owner of Ark Lodge Cinemas in Seattle, told the Seattle Times that he’s not sure how theaters will be able to enforce requirements like wearing masks.
“How do we deal with it if someone comes in the theater and says, ‘I’m not wearing a mask?’ How do they wear a mask and eat popcorn?” McRae asked.
And most importantly, when will people feel safe? Or will people be happy to continue binge-watching Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Disney+ and other streaming services? A May poll in The Hollywood Reporter found just 7% of moviegoers were “very likely” to go to a theater within a month of reopening.
Health officials have said they don’t expect concerts and festivals to resume until 2021, but Marcus is more optimistic for movies.
Movie theaters “are different than concert facilities. We don’t have a thousand people showing up at one time. They are spread out. We can see who goes in the lobby and who doesn’t. You can adjust your show schedules,” Marcus said. “And you get in a movie theater and you don’t talk. You sit there quietly. There is some breathing, but not a more emphasized kind of thing. It’s an environment we think can be properly addressed through good social distancing.”
Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.