Box Office Report: Hurricane Irene Advances, Shutting First East Coast Theaters

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UPDATED: Clearview Cinemas is shutting all of its 57 theaters along the Philadelphia-New York corridor this weekend and AMC is closing theaters in Virginia, Baltimore and Washington on Saturday; Hollywood expects the domestic box office to take a sizeable hit because of massive storm.

Clearview Cinemas is shutting all of its 57 theaters — which stretch from Philadelphia to New York City — on Saturday and Sunday because of Hurricane Irene.

“Out of concern for the safety of our guests and staff, all Clearview Cinemas will be closed on Saturday August 27th and Sunday August 28th. We plan to reopen on Monday August 29th. Wishing you and your family a very safe weekend,” read a statement on the circuit’s website.

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AMC Entertainment and Regal Entertainment — which operate numerous multiplexes in New York City and other East Coast hubs — are monitoring the situation carefully in New York, while AMC says it is closing theaters in Virginia, Baltimore and Washington on Saturday.

By late Friday, AMC said that the Empire 25 in New York City's Times Square--the top grossing theater in the country--along with AMC locations in Harlem, 34th Street and Lincoln Square would remain open through 5 p.m. Saturday or until the weather warrants closing. The chain expects many New York theaters to be closed on Sunday.

As a precaution, government officials in New York and Philadelphia are shutting down public transportation on Saturday, making it difficult for employees of movie theaters and retail stores to get to work.

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Clearview Cinemas has three locations in New York City.

The domestic box office is is expected to take a substantial hit because of Irene. According to anecdotal reports, movie-going has already slowed down in New York City, even though the effects of the storm won’t be felt until Saturday.

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That’s bad news for the three new films opening this weekend -- the Luc Besson-produced action pic Colombiana, starring Zoe Saldana and distributed by TriStar; The Weinstein Co.’s R-rated ensemble comedy Our Idiot Brother headlining Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer; and the Guillermo del Toro-produced horror movie Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, distributed by FilmDistrict and starring Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce.

By some estimates, box office revenues could be down 10 to 20 percent.

Notwithstanding the storm, all three films — which are tracking modestly -- could have a tough time toppling DreamWorks and Participant Media’s late-summer box office hit The Help from the No. 1 spot.