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Regal, Cineworld movie theaters across the U.S. and U.K. to close Thursday

People stroll past the Regal Cinemas LA Live Stadium 14 in Los Angeles.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The company that owns the Regal, Cineworld and Picturehouse movie theaters said Monday it will temporarily close the venues because the postponement yet again of the latest James Bond film left it with few blockbusters to attract customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

British-based Cineworld Group said Monday that 536 Regal cinemas in the U.S. and 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse venues in Britain would close Thursday. Some 45,000 employees are affected.

Shares in the company fell as much as 58% on the heels of the news.

The company said that with major markets such as New York closed and no guidance on when they would reopen, “studios have been reluctant to release their pipeline of new films.”

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Without these releases, the company can’t give customers “the breadth of strong commercial films necessary for them to consider coming back to theaters against the backdrop of COVID-19.”

“This is not a decision we made lightly,” said Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Cineworld. “And we did everything in our power to support safe and sustainable reopenings in all of our markets — including meeting, and often exceeding, local health and safety guidelines in our theaters and working constructively with regulators and industry bodies to restore public confidence in our industry.″

“We fear for their future.” That’s studios and directors’ message to Washington about the dire state of the movie theater industry.

The industry has been rocked by the pandemic, first with theaters being shut for months and then operating at a fraction of previous capacity, said David Madden, an analyst at CMC Markets. Cineworld had also been highly leveraged, having largely funded its acquisition of Regal Entertainment in 2018 through debt.

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“Today the company confirmed they will be assessing their liquidity options, and it plans to update the market on the resumption of business in due course,” Madden said. “It seems that Cineworld is hunkering down and they are holding onto their current liquidity position, with the view to probably having a reduced service when they reopen.”

The latest film in the James Bond franchise, “No Time to Die,” was scheduled for release Nov. 12 in Britain and Nov. 20 in the U.S.

On Friday, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Universal Pictures and 007 producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said in a joint statement that the Daniel Craig action movie is now expected to start rolling out April 2, 2021, “in order to be seen by a worldwide theatrical audience.”

Cinemark, one of the nation’s biggest cinema operators, said it would reopen its theaters starting Friday in Texas and across the country in July.

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“We understand the delay will be disappointing to our fans but we now look forward to sharing ‘No Time to Die’ next year,” the companies and producers said.

Cineworld shares fell as low as 15.64 pounds ($20.33) in London and were down 31% at 27.41 pounds (about $35.59) in morning trading.


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