After providing theatrical entertainment to Omahans for nearly 23 years, AMC’s Oakview Plaza 24 movie theater officially closed its doors on Sunday, Nov. 8.
The theater had previously temporarily closed on Monday, March 16 to comply with the lockdown orders put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It then reopened on Thursday, Aug. 27, ahead of the theatrical release of Disney/Fox’s “The New Mutants” and Warner Bros.’ “Tenet.” Unfortunately, as the weeks went by and audiences failed to return in any substantial capacity, financial strains forced the theater chain’s landlords to make tough decisions.
“AMC continues to have constructive discussions with our landlords as we work together to effectively manage through this COVID crisis,” Ryan Noonan, AMC’s Vice President of Corporate Communications, stated in a press release. “This includes reaching a global agreement with EPR Properties, one of our most prominent landlord partners, which was executed on July 1, 2020. In conjunction with that agreement, EPR made certain rent concessions in exchange for other rights, including its ability to terminate up to seven leases. In conjunction with this agreement, AMC has ceased operations at six EPR-owned theatre locations nationwide.”
Noonan ended his release by noting that any further questions should be sent directly to EPR Properties, as they will be handling all additional inquiries on the matter.
Luckily, AMC Oakview Plaza 24 is the only AMC theater in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area that is affected by EPR’s decision. Both AMC Classic Westroads 14 and AMC Council Bluffs 17 remain open at this time.
As an industry, theatrical exhibition continues to suffer as the coronavirus rages on. On Thursday, Oct. 8, Regal Cinemas – the second-largest theater chain in the U.S., behind AMC – shut all its theaters down across the United States, and its parent company, Cineworld, closed 127 theaters in the United Kingdom as well.
Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock foresees a grim future for theaters as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise throughout the nation.
“[We] have to prepare for the inevitability that one or more of the major chains – AMC, Regal, Cinemark – may not survive if this goes into next summer,” Bock said in a recent interview with The Verge.
Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pacher voiced agreement with Bock’s fears, as he believes that there is only one thing that will bring audiences back.
“A vaccine is coming,” Pacher said, in the same interview with The Verge. “If it comes a year from now, I think the owners of the listing chains will change out. If it’s in the next three months, all of them survive. Even if the announcement is 10 months for now, I think landlords would work with the movie chains and not force them to go away. It’s the not-knowing that’s the risk.”
On Monday, Nov. 9, Pfizer Inc. announced that early results from their tests of their COVID-19 vaccine showed that it would be more than 90% effective at protecting people from the virus. However, it could still be a few months before this vaccine hits the market.
In the meantime, the theaters that remain open are attempting to earn some sort of revenue by playing “legacy” titles, such as “Star Wars,” “Jurassic Park,” and “Jaws.” These “legacy” titles also occasionally correspond with current holidays (such as “Halloween” and “The Exorcist” for Halloween, or “The Santa Clause” and “Elf” for Christmas).
In terms of new releases, the release calendar continues to look quite barren. Though theaters hope that Universal’s “The Croods: A New Age” will be a hit with families when it’s released right before the Thanksgiving holiday on Nov. 25, Disney’s sci-fi action comedy “Free Guy” and the murder mystery “Death of the Nile” moved off the schedule entirely on Thursday, Nov. 5.
Warner Bros. has positioned “Wonder Woman 1984” as a celebratory theatrical event for Christmas, as it’s set to be released on Dec. 25, but many in the industry believe it may soon vacate 2020 as well.