Business & Economy

Cinemas stare into the Covid-19 abyss

Los Angeles/Beijing, Oct 20 (efe-epa).- Without any major releases scheduled between now and the end of the year, cinemas are dying on their feet.

James Bond’s latest, No Time To Die, Black Widow, West Side Story and Dune has all been slated to premiere this fall but their respective studios have decided to put the release on hold due to the pandemic.

Only Wonder Woman 1984 is due to hit the silver screen this Christmas period after being postponed several times.

A number of films destined for cinematic releases will now be offered on digital streaming sites instead. Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat 2 and Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America will be available on AmazonPrime, while Mulan and Soul will be released on Disney+.

Although countries like China have managed to somewhat recover the industry with the pandemic largely under control, the rest of the world is wondering what will be left of it once Covid-19 subsides.


The situation in the United States, the most important movie market in the world, is bleak.

AMC, the country’s largest cinema chain, has warned investors it could run out of money by the end of the year due to the lack of major film releases and shrinking theater audiences.

The company has reopened 494 of its 598 theaters in the US but the number of movie-goers has dropped by 85 percent. Outlets in big cities like Los Angeles and New York remain shuttered up.

AMC’s main competitor, Regal, threw in the towel and temporarily closed all of its theaters, which had provided work for a total of 40,000 people.

The decision to push the new James Bond move back to 2021 was the final straw for the cinema industry. Only Warner Bros has released a major movie in recent months, with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet taking in $200 million at the global box office.

“Leading up to the release of Tenet, about 20 percent of people knew that movie theaters were open,” the vice president of the National Association of Theater Owners, Patrick Corcoran, tells Efe. “And in the three weeks building up (before the release), that awareness grew to about 40 percent. What it told us is that once you start advertising major movies, people start paying attention.”

Hollywood has a backlog of movies without a release date.

Streaming sites do not necessarily offer a solution either, given that major blockbusters would struggle to recoup their production cost online only.

Equally cinemas are unable to stay afloat without an attractive schedule to offer.


China was the world’s first country to be hit by Covid-19 and shortly after the government decreed a state of emergency at the end of January, authorities decided to close all entertainment venues, including movie theaters.

They reopened in July with health and safety restrictions in place. Spectator numbers were reduced to 30 percent, temperature controls and social distancing were introduced.

Over time, with the pandemic coming under control in China — according to official data — authorities slowly eased back on the measures and now the maximum capacity in movie theaters is at 75 percent.

The China Film Administration estimated that ticket sales dropped by 30 billion yuan ($3.8 billion) this year as a result of Covid-19.

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