AMC, Cinemark Close All U.S. Theaters as Cinemas Across the Country Go Dark Amid Coronavirus

The nationwide shutdown of virtually all cinemas is unprecedented and could last at least six to 12 weeks, potentially disrupting the prime summer release calendar.

The three largest theater chains in the United States have announced that all of their movie theaters will close indefinitely as cinemas go dark across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

On Tuesday, Cinemark said it is closing all of its 345 sites "temporarily" as a proactive measure in support of its employees, guests and communities. The announcement came following AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas saying Monday that all their theaters will shutter.

Noting that these are "absolutely unprecedented and evolving times," Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi said in a statement the decision to go dark was "incredibly tough, but but we know it is the right thing to do as global coronavirus concerns continue to escalate."AMC Theatres is closing all of its U.S. locations for at least six to 12 weeks as cinemas across the country go dark in unprecedented fashion due to the coronavirus pandemic.

AMC — the largest chain in the country, with roughly 630 locations and 11,000 screens — made its announcement Monday night after a raft of other circuits announced closures throughout the day, beginning with Regal Cinemas, the second-largest movie chain in the U.S.

AMC is the only one to indicate how long theaters expect to stay closed — raising the prospect that the May and June release calendars could be severely impacted. (Regal simply said "until further notice.") While studios have delayed event pics from March to May, including Universal's F9 and Disney's Marvel movie Black Widow, films such as Warner Bros' Wonder Woman 1984, Christopher Nolan's Tenet and musical In the Heights, Disney-Pixar's Soul and Paramount's anticipated sequel Top Gun: Maverick are still on the June and July calendar. 

Hollywood and the film industry stand to lose many billions at the box office. If theaters stay closed through May, the deficit globally could be $17 billion, according to analysts.

The week began with a White House press conference on Monday in which guidance was given for Americans to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people.

AMC, like all chains, said it made its determination to shut down in compliance with local, state and federal directives, and as a precaution to help ensure the health and safety of moviegoers and staff. The company said it will continue to monitor the situation closely and stressed it will remain flexible in terms of reopening.

“We are ever so disappointed for our moviegoing guests and for our employee teams that the new CDC guidelines that Americans should not gather in groups larger than 10 people make it impossible to open our theaters," said AMC CEO Adam Aron in a statement. "Still, the health and well-being of AMC guests and employees, and of all Americans, takes precedence above all else."

Since the weekend, more than than a dozen states and locales have mandated that movie theaters, bars and restaurants must close, including in New York City and Los Angeles, the country's two busiest moviegoing markets. AMC's top-grossing location is the AMC Empire 25 in New York City's Times Square, across the street from Regal E-Walk.

Five other chains also announced plans to close on Monday: the Landmark, Harkins Theaters, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Showcase Cinemas and Bow Tie Cinemas. Both the Landmark and Alamo are indie chains, similar to ArcLight and Pacific Theaters, which are likely to go dark sometime on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Exhibition sources tell The Hollywood Reporter they expect most, if not all, cinemas to follow suit by the end of the week. All told, the country boasts more than 5,400 theaters.

"Goodbye for now. But we'll be back," read a poignant notice posted on the Alamo Drafthouse website early Monday evening. "When we reopen 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. We’ll be in close contact over the coming days and weeks with our teams, suppliers, and colleagues on what these closures mean and what we plan to do next."

Major theater chains had tried to adjust their protocols multiple times amid the fast-moving coronavirus pandemic, but closure became inevitable, similar to much of Europe and major Asian markets such as China, where there has been a complete blackout on moviegoing for seven weeks. Also on Monday, Canadian exhibition giant Cineplex said it will be shutting down all of its locations until April 2.

"At some point, you have to stop the bleeding," said one exhibition source about trying to stay open as moviegoing plummets.

Studios are delaying high-profile films and, in the case of NBCUniversal, releasing current movies on premium VOD in an effort to maintain some sort of revenue pipeline.

On Monday, NBCUniversal said it would be offering Universal's The Hunt and The Invisible Man and Focus Features' Emma for rent on various platforms as early as Friday. Consumers can rent the titles for $19.99 for 48 hours. And April animated film Trolls World Tour will open day and date on premium VOD and in those theaters that remain open in various parts of the globe.

As of Monday, there were 181,127 confirmed cases of coronavirus globally and 4,287 in the U.S., per John Hopkins University's case tracker.

March 17, 1:55 p.m. Updated with Cinemark announcement.