Cineworld, the parent company of Regal Cinemas, confirmed it will close all theaters in the U.S. and the U.K. Thursday for an unspecified amount of time.
Regal theaters had recently reopened in some areas in August after shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In total, 536 Regal theaters in the U.S. and 127 cinemas in the U.K. will close.
Approximately 40,000 employees with the company will be impacted.
“This is not a decision we made lightly, and we did everything in our power to support a safe and sustainable reopening in the U.S.– from putting in place robust health and safety measures at our theatres to joining our industry in making a collective commitment to the CinemaSafe protocols to reaching out to state and local officials to educate them on these initiatives," Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Cineworld, wrote in a press 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 decision comes just days after news that the release of the newest James Bond film, “No Time to Die,” has been pushed to April 2021.
Theater sales have suffered as other films have pushed release dates, like Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” “Wonder Woman 1984” and Disney’s “Black Widow." Others, such as “Trolls World Tour” and “Mulan,” have gone straight to streaming services.
Further hurting sales, movie-going in general has declined as people have chosen to avoid spaces meant for large numbers of people. Coronavirus-imposed restrictions in many states and cities, including major markets like New York and Los Angeles, still aren’t allowing theaters to reopen.
“Despite our work, positive feedback from our customers and the fact that there has been no evidence to date linking any COVID cases with cinemas, we have not been given a route to reopen in New York, although other indoor activities – like indoor dining, bowling and casinos were already allowed,” Greidinger said. "The prolonged closures have had a detrimental impact on the release slate for the rest of the year, and, in turn, our ability to supply our customers with the lineup of blockbusters they’ve come to expect from us. As such, it is simply impossible to continue operations in our primary markets.”
In some cases, keeping theaters open has cost the cinema company more money than it has made.
“We are like a grocery shop that doesn’t have vegetables, fruit, meat,” said Greidinger, according to The Wall Street Journal. “We cannot operate for a long time without a product.”
Cineworld suffered a loss of nearly $1.6 million in the first six months of 2020.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Greidinger wrote a letter to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking him to reconsider opening theaters to no avail.
“In the cinema, everyone is seated and looks in the same direction ... In the restaurant you take off your mask and you sit one in front of the other,” Greidinger said. “It simply doesn’t make sense.”
In August, Cuomo said reopening theaters would be "a risky situation.”
“It is congregate. It’s one ventilation system. You’re seated there for a long period of time,” he said.
It’s unclear when in 2021 Cineworld will reopen shuttered theaters.
“Regal will continue to monitor the situation closely and will communicate any future plans to resume operations at the appropriate time, when key markets have more concrete guidance on their reopening status and, in turn, studios are able to bring their pipeline of major releases back to the big screen,” the company said in a statement.
Regal Cinemas is second only to AMC Theaters in the U.S. as the largest movie theater chain.