The Last Picture Show

With Regal shuttering and more blockbuster delays, the movies are in big trouble

Regal Cinemas has shut down its U.S. operations, dealing the latest blow to the moviegoing industry in the United States. The move came amid falling theater revenue numbers and the continued postponements of scheduled movie releases.

It will furlough around 40,000 employees in the U.S. alone, with no timetable on when they might be able to return.

Regal made the decision after the announcement that MGM would push the release of No Time to Die, the latest James Bond film, to 2021. That followed several other high-profile releases that had been set for later this year, including Wonder Woman: 1984, Dune and Black Widow. On Thursday, Pixar announced that its latest film, Soul, would skip a theatrical release and go straight to Disney+. Disney+ released Mulan earlier this summer, but viewers had to pay an additional $30 to rent the film.

AMC, the largest theater chain in the U.S., said it wouldn’t shut down its theaters. In fact, AMC said it would continue to open theaters and expects 520 of its 600 theaters to be operating by later this month. AMC also has a deal with Universal that allows the theater to release films on demand 17 days after they begin their theatrical run. In announcing it would stay open, AMC used the Universal deal as part of its reasoning.

Cinemark–another major theater chain–also said it would stay open, despite falling revenue and cutbacks in operating hours.

Despite loosening of COVID-19 restriction across the U.S., theaters are still having a very difficult time staying open. Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is the only major release since the pandemic began, making it increasingly difficult for theaters to even find films to show. The official postponement of No Time to Die was the final straw for Regal’s decision.

Regal, through its parent company Cineworld, also closed theaters in the U.K. and furloughed about 5,000 workers.

Across the world, theaters have been reopening since they were first closed in March. Theaters in Michigan opened this week, while some in Southern California were ready to open as well. But in some places, theaters have stayed closed even if allowed to reopen, as they grapple with a lack of available films to show. As it stands, there isn’t anything to suggest the pipeline will be getting better anytime soon.

Some observers have spelled this as the death of movie theaters. Speaking to Reuters, Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins offered her thoughts on the situation.

“If we shut this down, this will not be a reversible process,” she said. “We could lose movie theater-going forever.”

Regardless, with no movies to show and not much on the immediate horizon to look forward to, theaters are stuck between a rock and hard place.

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Jonah Dylan

Jonah Dylan is a Los Angeles-based writer and journalist.

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