Cineplex CEO Talks 'Wonder Woman 1984' Delays, Cineworld Litigation, "Forced" Theater Closures

Ellis Jacob - Warner Bros. Pictures Private Cocktail Reception for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. - Getty - H 2017
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Ellis Jacob told shareholders Canada's largest exhibitor won't shut cinemas as Hollywood tentpoles are pushed to 2021 or get streaming releases amid the pandemic.

Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob told shareholders his Canadian movie chain will not reclose theaters as Hollywood tentpoles continue to be delayed to 2021 or get streaming releases amid the pandemic.

"We're in a positive position from the theaters being open," Jacob, who is also chairman of the National Association of Theatre Owners, which represents major cinema chains, told Cineplex's virtual annual shareholders meeting on Tuesday.

Jacob responded to a shareholder question on Cineplex's plans should Warner Bros. delay Wonder Woman 1984 to 2021 after rival chains chose to go dark after MGM pushed the James Bond follow-up No Time to Die to next year.

"As of late last evening, Wonder Woman is still dated for Christmas. But it will largely depend on the level of the pandemic as to as to whether Warner Bros. decides to move the movie into 2021," Jacob, who is in regular contact with theater chains' Hollywood studio suppliers, added.

Warner Bros. has already postponed the release of Wonder Woman 1984 as the superhero sequel starring Gal Gadot is now set to hit theaters on Dec. 25, 2020.

Cineplex shares collapsed last week on news the latest James Bond film had been delayed to next year. That also followed Ontario ordering the closure of 22 Cineplex movie theaters in major provincial markets amid resurgent COVID-19 infection rates.

"We feel these forced closures, given our proven track record, are excessive," Jacob told investors of the government-imposed closures.

He added Cineplex had sufficient operating cash to keep its theaters open, government health protocols permitting, amid a dearth in new Hollywood theatrical releases and reduced theater capacity as the Canadian chain had sharply reduced operating costs and its monthly cash burn.

Jacob also discussed Cineplex bringing a lawsuit against Regal owner Cineworld Group after it called off a proposed $2.1 billion takeover of the Canadian chain, which would have created one of the world's largest cinema companies with more than 11,200 screens globally.

"We believe that Cineworld had no legal basis to terminate the agreement. In fact, we believe Cineworld was in breach of the agreement themselves and was trying to avoid its obligations in light of COVID-19," Jacob told shareholders.

He added the litigation against Cineworld in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice is slated to get underway in September 2021.