Regal to Close All U.S. Theaters Indefinitely Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Regal Cinemas Generic - Getty - H 2019
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Most, if not all, of the country's movie houses are expected to follow suit after the government recommended limiting social gatherings to no more than 10 people.

Regal Cinemas, the second-largest movie chain in the U.S., will be shutting down all of its locations until further notice amid the coronavirus pandemic. The circuit operates 543 theaters across the country.

The move by Regal followed a White House press conference in which guidance was given for Americans to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people. 

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter they expect most, if not all, cinemas in the U.S. to follow suit and go dark in the coming days, much as in Europe and parts of Asia. Regal is the first U.S. circuit to make a blanket announcement.

Regal, which is owned by Cineworld, will be closed beginning Tuesday. "Any time, at any Regal, it's our goal to provide a safe and healthy environment for our employees and guests," Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger said Monday in a statement.

"At this time, we have made the difficult decision to close our theaters. We value our movie-loving customers and have no doubt we will be serving them again as soon as possible with a full slate of Hollywood blockbusters," the executive added.

Regal will continue to update the status of all theaters on its mobile app and online.

A wave of cinema chains announced closures throughout the afternoon and evening.

National Amusements, which owns Showcase Cinemas theaters in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Ohio, said it would be closing locations as of Monday evening, "with operations expected to resume by April 7."

Landmark Theatres — the country's largest independent chain dedicated to specialize fare which operate 49 theaters in 27 markets — said the chain will be temporarily closed as of Monday. The circuit's most popular destination is in West Los Angeles, a haven for Oscar voters.

Later on Monday, popular indie chain Alamo Drafthouse said it was temporarily shuttering all but one of its 42 sites in the U.S. "Goodbye for now. But we'll be back," read a notice on the company's website. "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."

Major theater chains had tried to adjusted their protocols multiple times amid the fast-moving coronavirus pandemic, but closure has become almost inevitable. Earlier on Monday, AMC Theatres, the nation's largest circuit with 630 locations in the U.S., said that it would be instituting a policy that does not allow for more than 50 people in its theaters at the same time, per new guidance from the CDC.

Theater chains have shuttered globally as the coronavirus case count has grown. Some 70,000 theaters have been shut down in China for weeks, while chains across Europe have closed within the past several days. All told, cinemas are dark in at least 32 markets, while there are partial closings in another 16, including in the U.S., where closures began to be announced in earnest over the weekend.

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

As theaters shut down or dramatically scale back the number of ticket buyers for screenings, studios are delaying high-profile films and, in the case of NBCUniversal, releasing current movies on demand. 

On Monday, NBCUniversal said it would be releasing Universal's The Hunt and The Invisible Man and Focus Features' Emma as early as Friday. Days earlier, Disney shortened its home entertainment window for Frozen 2 by three months to debut the tentpole on its Disney+ streaming platform. 

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 16, 6:20 p.m. PST Updated with Alamo Drafthouse note, and earlier Landmark Theatres and Showcase Cinemas statements.