The nation's biggest movie theater chains are COVID-19's latest business casualties.
AMC Theaters and Regal Cinemas, two of the largest multiplex theater chains in the country, have decided to close all theaters locations in accordance with local, state, and federal guidelines concerning the spread of the coronavirus.
This comes after weeks of speculation as to whether movie theaters would be forced to close to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, with AMC, Regal, and other theaters initially rolling out new measures to decrease the risk, including new sanitation protocols and lower seating capacity limits.
But, with the growing number of citizens on self-quarantine, and with the U.S. implementing more stringent suggestions on public gatherings, the latest being limiting groups to just 10 people—it seemed almost inevitable that large, enclosed public spaces like movie theaters would begin to voluntarily close until the threat of infection passes.
However, one big hold out remains: Cinemark. The theater chain has introduced similar measures as its competition to keep patrons safer during the coronavirus crisis. Cinemark says it has reduced seating capacity to encourage social distancing, educated staff on COVID-19 symptoms and proper hand-washing, and has increased its sanitation protocol by disinfecting high-touch hard surfaces hourly, deep-cleaning auditorium hard surfaces nightly, increasing the availability of hand sanitizers, and giving theater-goers new disposable containers to replace refillable popcorn and drink containers.
For the other chains, it is unclear exactly when they will open back up to the public—AMC says its theater locations will be shut down for 6 to 12 weeks, while Regal says its locations will be closed indefinitely. One upside to all of this, at least for AMC, is that there might be a surge in its On-Demand streaming service.