Cinemas are reported to have put plans to reopen all venues on hold as the release schedules of major film titles are disrupted.
Odeon Cinemas, the AMC-owned chain, has decided to apply the brakes on its reopening plans amid ongoing coronavirus disruption and a film slate that is seeing major titles move release dates back.
The chain reopened an initial 10 sites on 4th July, following UK government guidelines allowing selected venues to reopen. The plan was to open a further 88 venues incrementally before the end of July, however this will now be closer to 10 venues over the next couple of weeks. The move is understood not to include significant London sites.
A larger number of Odeon venues should reopen on 31st July, mirroring the move made by Cineworld recently, which also decided to push back reopening all of its UK sites until that date due to the lack of high-profile titles in the pipeline for release.
The cinematic release of Warner Bros’ Tenet and Disney’s Mulan, for example, have repeatedly shifted and now sit at 12th August and 21st August respectively, almost a month later than originally planned. The release dates ultimately depend on how the coronavirus situation pans out in the US, where spikes in cases are threatening to cause further disruption. Russell Crowe thriller Unhinged is currently set to debut on 31st July as the first major post-lockdown release in the UK.
Around 9% of cinemas did resume operations in the UK in early July, although they grossed a minimal $160K across the top ten releases, led by Disney Pixar’s Onward.
John Fithian, president and chief executive of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has determined the coronavirus pandemic as “existential” for the film industry. As such, his organisation has been encouraging studios to start releasing their big titles next month, to avoid causing permanent damage to the industry. “If we go a year without new movies, it’s over,” John said.
The North American box office is expected to drop 61% from last year. Wedbush Securities estimates that the box office will total $4.4b in 2020, compared to $11.4b in 2019.
Studios have said they are ready to release films when health officials give the green light for US theatres to open.
In a tweet, Telegraph film critic Robbie Collin said: “Hollywood has two options: press on with international releases regardless, or destroy cinemas all over the world purely because the US is a Covid basket-case.”