Theaters Face Crisis while Blockbuster Release Dates Could Move Again

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Theaters Face Crisis while Blockbuster Release Dates Could Move Again

By Allyson Vannatta, Senior Writer

Theaters across the country have been shuttered for months because of COVID-19, and reopening isn’t looking good as cases surge in key states.

“Twenty days ago, I would’ve said we’re on track,” said David A. Gross, head of movie consultancy Franchise Entertainment Research. “But this latest spike is just awful.”

North America is home to 5,500 indoor theaters, which are mostly still closed. However, about 1,300 domestic cinemas are open, as well as 293 drive-in theaters, which are doing particularly well during this time.

But, with key states like California and New York closing back down and no reopening dates set for theaters, the industry is set to take a financial beating.

The summer box office usually accounts for 40% of total box office ticket sales, according to the LA Times.

Wedbush Securities, “Estimates that the North American box office will total $4.4 billion in 2020, down 61% from last year.”

In 2019, box office revenue totaled $11.4 billion, down 4% from the previous year.

Related: Can TENET and MULAN Save the Summer Box Office?

Right now, it looks eminent that summer blockbusters TENET and MULAN (2020) will be pushed to later dates for the third time, which could affect the rest of the Hollywood release schedule.

In a new note by Eric Handler, a leading exhibition industry analyst with MKM Partners, Handler said that it would be “shocking if cinemas can reopen before ‘September, at the earliest.’”

John Fithian, president and chief executive of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners (NATO), said that the organization is encouraging studios to keep their August release dates, even with big markets still closed.

He argued that, “If studios don’t start releasing new movies soon, it could do lasting damage to the industry.”

“If the answer is, ‘We’re going to wait until 100% of theaters are open, we’re not going to be there until a year from now when there’s a vaccine,” Fithian said. “This is existential for the movie theater industry. If we go a year without new movies, it’s over.”

The coming days will determine if titles will be pushed again from their August release dates. However, AMC and Regal continue to gear up, adding new safety measures hoping that TENET and MULAN (2020) hold strong.

If they don’t, Handler forecast new third and fourth quarter numbers in his note predicting an even bigger decline in box office revenue.

“For the back half of the year we project third-quarter and fourth-quarter box office revenue could fall 90 percent and 50 percent, respectively, down from our previous forecast calling for a decline of 65 percent and 29 percent,” he wrote.