AMC Theaters will not be opening in the U.S. in July as planned. The theater chain announced today that, while it previously intended to open the majority of its locations at the end of July, it will now reopen in “mid-to-late August.”
The decision is not a surprising one. Movie theaters are not allowed to reopen in some major U.S. cities as coronavirus cases surge, and the chains were not willing to reopen until they had some new films to entice audiences back. Warner Bros. and Christopher Nolan are really hoping that will be Tenet, but after steadfastly sticking to its mid-July date and then shifting to the end of July, WB recently pulled Tenet from the release calendar entirely as it’s now reassessing the best move going forward.
Disney’s Mulan remains slated to open on August 21st, which appears to be when AMC Theaters is hoping to reopen, but even now that date seems optimistic as COVID-19 caseloads in the U.S. are out of control.
Other theater chains like Cinemark and Regal are likely to follow AMC’s lead on this one, again because right now it’s simply unsafe to open a movie theater – one of the most high-risk areas to cause the spread of COVID-19. The chains caused a bit of controversy earlier this summer when, in announcing reopening plans, some didn’t initially require guests to wear masks (one of the surefire ways of limiting the spread of the virus). They all caved, but the question remains how mask-wearing can be enforced if folks are allowed to remove their masks to eat – as we all know, theater chains make the majority of their money from concession sales.
Questions abound and more and more 2020 is feeling like a lost year in so many ways. Honestly, even November or December seems optimistic right now as major films like No Time to Die and Dune are still slated for release. I would not be surprised if the theatrical calendar largely makes a shift into 2021 – we just saw that Bill & Ted Face the Music will be going on demand in September while also being released in theaters where it’s allowed to do so.
As for the future of the movie theater chains, I do sincerely hope the government considers some sort of bailout. I don’t want them to go out of business – seeing a movie in a theater is still the ideal movie-watching experience. But I also don’t want people to die simply because they went to the movies.
Adam Chitwood is the Managing Editor for Collider. You can follow him on Twitter @adamchitwood.