Some L.A. movie theaters target reopening Monday as pandemic eases

Two people watch a big screen outside an AMC movie complex in Monterey Park in 2012.
(Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images)

After roughly a year of closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, Los Angeles’ beleaguered movie theaters are aiming to open their doors next week, with multiple spots looking to reopen Monday.

AMC Theatres, the world’s largest cinema chain, said two of its biggest Los Angeles-area locations — AMC Burbank 16 and AMC Century City 15 — will open for business Monday afternoon. AMC’s 23 remaining Los Angeles County cinemas will be ready to reopen March 19, the Leawood, Kan.-based exhibitor said Friday.

Plano, Texas-based Cinemark said its Long Beach location will start screening movies again on Saturday. The nation’s No. 3 chain said other Los Angeles County theaters will begin reopening Monday.

Theater circuits have been desperate to reopen in Los Angeles, Hollywood’s biggest box-office market.

The rush to start selling tickets again comes after theaters got the go-ahead from state and county authorities to finally resume business.


Los Angeles County on Thursday cleared the way for businesses including theaters, indoor dining rooms and gyms to reopen next week with strict limits on capacity and other restrictions such as mask wearing.

Movie theaters in counties listed in California’s second-most restrictive tier of reopening — the red tier — can open indoor auditoriums at 25% capacity with reserved seating and at least six feet of distance in all directions between any groups. Counties that enter the less-restrictive orange tier can move up to 50% capacity.

Los Angeles County became eligible for reopenings when the state reached its goal of administering 2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to residents in its most disadvantaged areas. Clearing that bar, the state has relaxed the threshold for counties, including Los Angeles, to move from the most restrictive purple tier into the less-restrictive red tier.

The COVID-19 pandemic hammered Walt Disney Co. for a full year, representing almost all of Bob Chapek’s tenure. Wall Street doesn’t care.

March 9, 2021

Regal — the nation’s No. 2 chain — did not immediately provide an update on when its Los Angeles theaters would be able to open. Regal, which is owned by Cineworld, closed its U.S. locations in October after briefly reopening because of the lack of new movies and poor attendance.

Smaller chains may take longer to get back in business. Local operators spent much of Thursday trying to figure out when they could move forward with operations after county officials gave the green light. Larger circuits have been bringing back workers in anticipation of Los Angeles opening up.

L.A.-based arthouse circuit Laemmle Theatres has set a timeline to reopen in four to five weeks as the company calls back general managers, who will then need to rehire and retrain staff in new health and safety protocols. For example, Laemmle, which has seven locations, did not use reserve seating before the pandemic struck, but now must do so because of safety requirements.

Whereas larger chains with a nationwide footprint got to work on their reopening protocols in less strict states such as Texas, Laemmle, which operates entirely in Southern California, will be starting from scratch.

“They have the benefit of having done this in other markets, so they know what the process is,” Laemmle Theatres President Greg Laemmle said. “We want to welcome the public back as soon as possible, but we want to be able to do it safely and orderly.”


Hollywood studios have delayed their biggest blockbusters until they’re confident Los Angeles theaters can reopen. The industry got a boost last week when New York City, another huge market for moviegoing, opened its cinemas, also following a year of shutdowns. New York coming online increased confidence that big movies might be released in the coming months.

Disney Chief Executive Bob Chapek said this week that Marvel’s “Black Widow” is still “currently” planned for May 7, and Universal Pictures’ “F9” is set for release June 25.

Analysts have said studios will be more apt to stick with current release plans if Los Angeles and New York expand to 50% capacity for theaters in the coming weeks.

Prolonged closures and the lack of new Hollywood blockbusters have battered the finances of America’s theater chains, with some filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, including Texas’ Alamo Drafthouse.

AMC, which has seen its stock rise thanks partly to interest from retail investors inspired by Reddit forums, said Wednesday that its losses totaled $4.6 billion in 2020.