Regal Cinemas shuts its doors again

Theater chain closes over 536 locations across the United States

Eva Moschitto, Staff Writer

On these gray October evenings, when the chaos of college living seems overwhelming, nothing sounds quite as satisfying as escaping to a local theater and hunkering down with a grossly oversized popcorn and soda in hand. However, with the re-closure of Regal Cinemas’ 536 U.S. theaters, this dream may remain permanently unrealized for many movie-goers.

Without New York theaters, many studios see no reason to release films through traditional venues, and without the release of new films, many theaters see no reason to reopen.”

At first glance, this closure seems to contradict the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Barbara and other states and counties as case numbers decline in some areas, but the main motivation behind Regal Cinemas’ decision is fiscal. With anticipated films like Warner Bros.’ “Dune” postponed to late 2021 and blockbusters like Disney’s “Mulan” released exclusively online, theaters hold little draw for audiences and are consequently struggling for ways to generate revenue.

As John Fithian, Chief Executive of the National Association of Theatre Owners, informed The New York Times, “If the studios continue postponing all their releases, the movie theatres aren’t going to be there for those postponed releases. They [movie studios] have to consider whether they want the long-term viability of the theatre platform to be available to them.” Fithian explained how each individual studio’s choice in releasing films has repercussions on the health of the entire film industry. While Warner Brothers’ postponing of “Dune” and Disney’s online release of “Mulan” may make financial sense for those companies, it may mean long-term losses for the industry on a wider scale.

Selah Tennberg

Another key factor behind Regal’s decision is the continued government-mandated closure of movie theaters in key markets like New York state, which accounts for a large margin of the industry due to its population size and cultural centrality. Without New York theaters, many studios see no reason to release films through traditional venues, and without the release of new films, many theaters see no reason to reopen.

While Regal Cinemas’ choice is a disappointment to many movie-goers, the greater tragedy lies in the setbacks it will cause for the industry and the resulting nation-wide furlough of Regal’s approximately 40,000 employees. Regal’s move is just one of the numerous difficult decisions made by theaters and other arts establishments fighting to stay afloat amidst a sea of shifting guidelines and regulations.

Though Santa Barbara has movie theatres of various sizes, the majority of these are independently owned and will likely not close as a direct result of Regal’s decision. However, this closure might serve as a catalyst for many struggling theatres across the United States, and at a relatively near point in the future going to a movie theatre will be a thing of the past.