June 8, 2020
The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) reportedly expects upwards of 90% of movie screens in the world to re-open by July 17 — the launch date for Warner Bros.’ international espionage thriller Tenet from director Christopher Nolan. Disney’s live-action Mulan is slated to debut July 24.
The trade group, which represents 68,000 screens in 99 countries, is pushing the optimistic date as global economies get back on line and coronavirus infections slow. No theatrical chain has officially announced a re-opening date in the United States. NATO is hoping to throw a lifeline to publicly-held exhibitors such as AMC Theatres, Regal Cinema and Cinemark, which have been shuttered since mid-March. AMC, the world’s largest exhibitor, recently disclosed it would not rule out bankruptcy if the situation didn’t improve.
The chains say they will implement social distancing in theaters upon re-opening, with Cinemark recommending, but not enforcing, facial masks for moviegoers.
“95% of this bullishness is aimed at their investors,” an industry source told Business Insider, which first reported the news.
Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter remains bearish on the sector, contending consumer demand for theatrical releases will remain compromised without a virus vaccine.
“People may be eager to visit the theaters once they feel safe doing so, but we think it is unlikely crowds will return to any semblance of normal before a vaccine is widely distributed, particularly in urban and suburban markets,” Pachter wrote in a June 3 note.
He estimates the domestic industry box office will end the current fiscal quarter down 97.8% from 2019, with most domestic screens likely remaining closed beyond the end of the quarter.
“Theatrical exhibition is in the middle of a perfect storm,” Pachter wrote. “Theater closures not only deplete cash reserves and sources of liquidity, but may alter consumer behavior indefinitely.”