Movie Theater Owners Warn Against Reopening Too Early

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National Association of Theatre Owners chief John Fithian

A coalition of Southern states are giving some businesses — including indoor cinemas — the go-ahead to flip the lights on.

Not so fast. The National Association of Theatre Owners on Wednesday cautioned that most shuttered cinemas won't reopen right away, even if they are permitted to by various authorities.

The statement came in response to reports that a handful of Southern states are attempting to end shelter-in-place orders instituted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"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," NATO said.

"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," the statement continued. "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 vast majority of the country's 5,500-plus indoor theaters have been closed since March 20. Insiders stress it will take time for theaters to ramp up. Distressed owners also risk forgoing federal relief money if they open prematurely.

Hollywood and cinema owners are currently banking on theaters being back online by the end of June.

Initially, theaters are expected to play catalog titles before Warner Bros. debuts Christopher Nolan's Tenet on July 17, followed by Disney's Mulan on July 24.

On Monday, Georgia said some businesses, including theaters, will be permitted to reopen next week with social distancing measures in place. There are similar plans in Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida. The six states are coordinating their reopening efforts.