Cineworld, parent company of Regal Cinema, announced its second closure of all theaters in the United States, including nearby locations in West Covina and La Verne. Despite a brief reopening in late August, concerns surrounding COVID-19 safety continue to play a role in the shutdown of Regal theaters and threatens the viability of other indoor theater chains who are seeking to adapt to the pandemic.
This decision also follows a recent delay of many big-budget movies including “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Black Widow,” spelling uncertainty for the theater industry’s economic future.
These circumstances are all informing Cal Poly Pomona students’ approach to indoor theaters, with many contending that visiting indoor theaters is not safe now.
Osasuyi Osawe, a fifth-year biochemistry student, explained that his issue is not with the safety procedures adopted by theaters, but more of the overall indoor experience, especially when theaters cannot guarantee that other guests will be cooperative.
“I wouldn’t want to risk my safety in the theaters knowing other people are willing to harm my safety,” said Osawe.
Although other indoor theater chains in Southern California are attempting to reopen, the only theaters currently operating are all within Orange County, including Cinemark locations in Orange and Huntington Beach, and AMC locations in Anaheim, Fullerton, Orange and Tustin.
To stay afloat, some AMC locations are renting out unused theaters for $99, allowing customers to watch a movie with up to 20 friends. This is one way that indoor theaters are attempting to deal with the pandemic.
Regardless of the additional entrance protocols, cleaning procedures and reduced capacity, a sentiment is shared by some that theaters are becoming unnecessary.
Nayda Capozzi, a first-year hospitality management student, believes that the theaters made a poor decision in its reopening plans.
“I loved going to the theaters to watch movies and hang out with my friends, but honestly, I don’t think they should’ve reopened the theaters in the first place,” Capozzi said. “I’d rather stay home than go out to a theater and risk mine and my family’s health.”
Government reopening guidelines have dictated reduced capacity to create a safer environment, leading to less revenue for cinemas, in turn, causing movie productions to delay their release until they think it is financially viable.
The massive delays in the most profitable movies have resulted in a big financial hit to the industry. Cineworld’s share price has dropped as a result of their closure decision, and there are fears that the company may not survive the pandemic. According to data shown on the company’s website, the share price dropped 36% on Oct. 5, the day of the closure announcement.
The cultural value of movie theaters is at risk in this scenario as described by Helena Fultz, a first-year kinesiology student.
“I am so sad that movie theaters are closed due to the fact that my mother and I always go together to the movies,” Fultz said. “I am scared that the film industry is going downhill mainly because people are no longer going to the movies.” 2020 is a year that requires adaptation, so if no one is going to the movies, the approach needs to change.
Companies like Street Food Cinema in Los Angeles and Starlite Drive-In in El Monte are creating pop up drive-in experiences as an attainable way for visitors to enjoy watching movies during the pandemic. Although the shift in the way viewers are watching movies may not be permanent, due to the long duration that theaters may be closed, the entertainment landscape may change forever.
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