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Cinemas finally reopen: Do you want to go?



A year into the Covid-19 pandemic, Hollywood studios and cinemas are hoping a recovery is on the way.

Some theaters at two of America’s largest ticket markets, New York City and San Francisco, will be open this weekend after being closed most of the year. As cities slowly reopen public spaces and more Americans receive vaccines for Covid-19, filming is poised for a comeback, though there is a long way to go before all the nation’s screens flash.

Theater owners are preparing. Some Hollywood executives are promoting movie releases that had been delayed. And for movies scheduled to open in theaters in the coming weeks, customers’ interest in returning plus results at the box office in New York City and San Francisco will begin to test the wisdom of the studio̵

7;s unprecedented decisions over the past year – namely that premiere films simultaneously in theaters and on digital streaming services.

Cinemas elsewhere in the United States have been open for several months, including in Florida, Texas and Ohio, but ticket office results have been dismal. The largest few movie theater markets in the United States make up a large percentage of box office revenue when a movie comes out.

“Adrenaline is definitely pumping and definitely excited about reopening,” said Scott Rosemann, who manages New York City’s Angelika Film Center in the trendy SoHo area as well as two other city theaters. “With the fact that we should have vaccinated all adults in the United States before the end of May, it gives me great hope that we will have a summer short season.”

President Biden said earlier this week that he expects the United States to have adequate vaccine supplies for all U.S. adults by the end of May.

Still, theater owners cannot pack auditoriums, and many major theater markets remain closed, including in Hollywood Studios’ home base in Los Angeles.

The Government of Texas, Greg Abbott, announced plans to “open Texas 100%” so that companies could operate at full capacity and complete the state’s mask mandate from March 10. Photo: David J. Phillip / AP

Cineworld Group CNWGY 3.28%

Although the PLC’s Regal Entertainment Group encouraged reopening, it said it will endure resuming operations at its more than 500 US theaters until its management is convinced that big budget movies will definitely follow. “When Los Angeles follows suit, we’re sure the studios are keeping their release dates for new movies so we can reopen our theaters,” the company said.

Both New York City and San Francisco require theaters to limit attendance by 25%, and movie theaters will require moviegoers to wear masks. And it remains unknown whether a long-awaited demand for popcorn and big screen will manifest itself after more than 500,000 U.S. deaths from Covid-19 and prolonged public fears of gathering in indoor spaces.

Hollywood’s largest studio, Disney,

HAZE 1.04%

have some confidence. On Friday, the studio “Raya and the Last Dragon” will debut in more than 2,000 North American theaters. It’s been a year since Disney opened a new movie in domestic theaters.

Disney is also making the film available to subscribers to its streaming service Disney + for an additional $ 30, which means some people are likely to watch the animated family movie at home.

The last movie Disney released exclusively for North American theaters was Pixar’s “Onward.” It hit more than 4,000 theaters on March 6, 2020, but splashed at the box office amid the worsening pandemic and theater closure.

John Krasinski, director of Paramount Pictures’ much-anticipated sequel “A Quiet Place Part II” announced on Twitter late Thursday that the release of his film has moved up to Memorial Day weekend in May from the previously scheduled premiere in September.

Sony Pictures Entertainment is also growing optimistic about May. This week, the studio said it would release “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” in May rather than June. The studio chose to debut the film in theaters more quickly due to recent signs of improvement and encouraging demand for family films, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Family movies have fared better than others in recent weeks. Universal Pictures’ animated sequel “The Croods: A New Age” had earned $ 52.4 million over the last weekend, according to Comscore, after a relatively strong 14-week run in theaters. Last weekend there was another family title, Warner Bros. “Tom & Jerry,” took first place in the domestic market after generating $ 13.7 million in ticket revenue, Comscore also said.

Like all studio releases from 2021, “Tom & Jerry” could also be seen on the streaming service HBO Max, which like Warner Bros. is a device operated by AT&T. Inc.’s

WarnerMedia.

During the pandemic, Hollywood studios either focused on their streaming services, delayed the release of their most coveted projects, or sold movies to competitors for online distribution. As a result, the country’s largest theater chains, which include Regal, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. and Cinemark Holdings Inc.,

CNK 1.93%

so their chances of generating revenue decrease. AMC managed to avert bankruptcy several times during the past year.

As selected cities and states have loosened restrictions due to the fluctuations of the pandemic, AMC and Cinemark reopened some theaters with reduced capacity. They also implemented social distancing measures and increased hygiene protocols.

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Many theater owners expect Hollywood studios to only start releasing high-profile movies again when moviegoers show that they are comfortable returning to multiplexes, and the rest of California, mostly Los Angeles, is reopening as well.

Franchise films, such as MGM Holdings Inc.’s latest James Bond release “No Time to Die” and Disney’s Marvel spin “Black Widow”, typically drive the majority of ticket sales. The two films, among many other high-budget titles, have been repeatedly delayed during the pandemic. Currently, “Black Widow” is scheduled for early May in the US and Canada, while “No Time To Die” is scheduled for October 8.

In an attempt to bring life back to normal, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott took a more aggressive approach than many other states and corporations when he lifted pandemic-related restrictions on businesses in Texas and annulled the state’s mask mandate.

The move causes a wide range of complications for companies, including cinema chains. Tim League, founder and chairman of the Austin-based chain Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas Holdings LLC, joined a chorus of companies that said they would continue to follow public health recommendations and maintain Covid-19 protection protocols. The chain also announced this week that it had to close two locations in Texas permanently as part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy application.

“If you relax mask mandates now, what about the people in the room who work there every day? They are in danger, “said Mr. League.

Mens Mr. League says he ranks this week’s news as some of the best he’s heard in months, his Alamo theaters in New York City and San Francisco will remain closed this weekend because the dining experience the chain offers requires extra preparation before reopening.

“There are many signs of encouragement and I am convinced that later in the year we will return to a certain level of normalcy,” he said. “But it all depends on people’s comfort level to get out of the home.”

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