Two months after Gov. Larry Hogan signaled that theaters in Maryland would be allowed to open with limited capacity, Regal Cinema’s 536 venues across the country, including 13 in Maryland, will be closing their doors on Thursday, the company confirmed in a news release Monday.
Movie theaters began re-opening at 25% of their capacity in Baltimore City on Sept. 3 and were allowed to re-open in Anne Arundel County later that month, but remain closed in New York and Los Angeles — two of North America’s largest markets. In the release, Regal said these closures have made studios reluctant to release their “pipeline of new films.”
“In turn, without these new releases, Cineworld [Regal’s parent-company] cannot provide customers in the U.S. and U.K. . . . with the breadth of strong commercial films necessary for them to consider coming back to theaters against the backdrop of COVID-19,” the release read.
Cineworld had said in a tweet Sunday morning that it was considering the temporary closure of its U.S. and U.K. cinemas, writing then that “a final decision has not yet been reached.”
“Once a decision has been made we will update all staff and customers as soon as we can,” the company wrote. Cineworld operates 128 venues in the U.K. and Ireland.
The company’s announcement came after the London-based Sunday Times reported early Sunday morning that Cineworld’s U.K. and Ireland theaters would shutter indefinitely in the coming weeks, leaving the jobs of up to 5,500 people at risk. In the U.S., according to Regal’s Monday release, about 40,000 employees will be affected by the closures.
The newspaper and other outlets reported that Cineworld plans to write to U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, warning him that the cinema industry has become “unviable” as studios postpone blockbuster releases due to the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday, producers announced that the release date for the much-anticipated James Bond film, “No Time To Die,” would be pushed to April 2021. The movie had previously been slated to debut in November of this year.
Staff employed by Cineworld indicated that they had not been informed or consulted about the closures. The Cineworld Action Group, which represents workers at the company, wrote on Twitter Sunday that to find out from the media that you may no longer have a job is “awful.”
“We have found out vital information about our jobs from the media throughout the pandemic. Workers have been left out of discussions that should’ve included our voices,” the group wrote. “Words cannot express how this feels.”
British movie theaters began reopening in July, but Philippa Childs — head of the entertainment workers' union, BECTU — said in a press release that “the stark reality is that without new releases it is unlikely that footfall will increase to a level that makes opening financially viable.”
According to Monday’s release, Regal will continue monitoring the situation closely and will communicate future plans to resume operations when key markets have provided more concrete details about their reopening plans and when studios are able to move forward with their major releases.
“This is not a decision we made lightly," Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger said in the release. ”We are especially grateful for and proud of the hard work our employees put in to adapt our theatres to the new protocols and cannot underscore enough how difficult this decision was."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.