In the latest of a long series of closing announcements associated with government efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, all 543 Regal Cinemas locations in the U.S. will close as of Tuesday, March 17, the movie theater chain announced Monday afternoon. “All theatres will remain closed until further notice,” the company said in a news release, making Regal the first nationwide cinema chain to announce a complete shutdown.
Other chains rapidly followed suit. Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, which had already shuttered locations in Los Angeles and New York City, announced that all its corporate-owned locations were closed until further notice. The small independent chain Harkin closed all theaters through March 31. The Showcase Cinema chain will close through April 7. Bow Tie Cinema locations have closed, with no announced reopening date. And AMC Theatres, the largest American chain, shut down with a terse message on its corporate website: “All AMC theatres are temporarily closed in accordance with local and federal guidelines. They will re-open when those guidelines allow.”
“When we re-open after this unprecedented and indefinite hiatus, it will be in a dramatically altered world, and in an industry that’s been shaken to its core,” read a statement on the Alamo website. “We’ll be in close contact over the coming days and weeks with our teams, suppliers, and colleagues on what these closures mean and what we plan to do next.”
The decision followed Friday’s news that Regal and AMC were planning to limit theaters to 50% capacity to assist in “social distancing” and comply with the growing number of regional restrictions on large gatherings of people. It’s the latest move for a rapidly shuttering industry that’s already seen a wide variety of shutdowns taking place, from specific films like Mulan, No Time to Die, and The New Mutants being removed from upcoming release schedules to production hiatuses on movies including The Matrix 4, Mission: Impossible 7, and Matt Reeves’ The Batman.
The past week has seen a dramatic acceleration in cancellations and closures of public events due to COVID-19, with film and music festivals like SXSW and Coachella being shut down; gaming events like esports competitions, E3, and the Game Developers Conference going on hiatus; theme parks and restaurants closing; and more.
In response to the dramatic drop in moviegoing and the news about theaters limiting ticket sales, some studios are releasing films to streaming platforms early. Universal Pictures plans to put its upcoming animated sequel Trolls World Tour onto streaming platforms the day of its theatrical release, and is sending current films like Emma and The Hunt to streaming while they’re still in theaters. Disney released Frozen 2 on Disney Plus three months early, and bumped up the streaming release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker by several days. With more and more films being pulled from release, and more theater chains likely to close, sending projects directly to streaming services may become a viable release strategy for major studios.
Update (2:16 a.m. ET): Following Regal Cinemas’ Monday press release announcing its intention to close its locations, several other chains have declared similar plans. This article has been updated throughout to reflect their respective announcements and reopening date plans, if any.