Audiences may be ready to return. Will they have anything to watch?
It is turning out to be a long intermission. Cinemas across the West closed in March and, despite attempts to reopen in the summer, the box office has not recovered. From October 9th Cineworld, the world’s second-largest chain, will temporarily shut its 536 Regal theatres in America and its 127 British outlets. AMC, the biggest, will cut the opening hours at some Odeon cinemas in Britain.
Early in the pandemic the problem was audiences. In March Disney’s “Onward” flopped as people refused to breathe recirculated air with a crowd of strangers. Business got harder when governments ordered theatres to shut, or imposed profit-crushing closures of refreshment counters and caps on capacity.
As countries have eased restrictions and audiences prepared to return, cinemas are finding little to show them. In China, where covid-19 seems under control, studios have resumed pumping out hits. But Hollywood will not risk premiering costly blockbusters while many markets, including New York and California, remain closed, and cinema-goers wary. Most big titles have been postponed. The last straw for Cineworld was the decision on October 2nd by MGM and Universal Pictures to delay “No Time to Die”, James Bond’s latest caper, from November until April 2021. No big release is planned until Christmas Day, when Warner Bros’ “Wonder Woman 1984” will ride to the rescue.