Regal, the second largest exhibitor in the United States, has announced a two-part phased reopening that will see a limited number of theaters open on April 2—playing Godzilla vs. Kong—followed by a wider reopening on April 16, timed to the release of Mortal Kombat. Regal’s parent company, Cineworld, has come to an agreement with Warner Bros., the distributor of both films, to screen their content despite the studio’s controversial decision to push its entire 2021 slate to day-and-date release in theaters and on HBO Max.
Cineworld and Regal locations have been closed since October 2020—with a few temporary exceptions—citing unstable business conditions from ongoing studio delays since the U.S. release of Tenet last September. Though Regal is welcoming moviegoers back through their doors in the U.S., the U.K.’s Cineworld locations will remain closed in adherance to government guidelines that, as of now, will allow indoor cinemas to reopen on May 17 at the earliest.
Cineworld’s decision to reopen Regal locations comes weeks after New York City and Los Angeles, the top two markets in the U.S. by grosses, allowed movie theaters to reopen, providing a significant boost to weekend box office totals.
“We have long-awaited this moment when we can welcome audiences back to our Regal theatres and restore our essential role within the communities we serve,” said Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Cineworld. “With the health and safety of our customers, staff, and communities as our top priority, we continue to take all the necessary precautions and abide by our CinemaSafe guidelines to confidently provide a safe and comfortable experience. With capacity restrictions expanding to 50% or more across most U.S. states, we will be able to operate profitably in our biggest markets. We will also be monitoring developments closely in the U.K. and across Europe as we set to gradually reopen across the world in line with local government guidance.”
In addition, Cineworld has reached a multi-year agreement with Warner Bros. that further sees the industry shift to a shortened theatrical exclusivity window. Beginning in 2022, Warner Bros. Picture Group films will play at Regal locations with a 45-day theatrical exclusivity window—with, as noted in a statement from Cineworld, “certain provisions” that have not been made public. In Cineworld’s U.K. theaters, Warner Bros. films will get a theatrical exclusivity window of 31 days at a minimum, with an extended window of 45 days for films that pass a certain—not made public—box office mark.
Said Greidinger: “We are very happy for the agreement with Warner Bros. This agreement shows the studio’s commitment to the theatrical business and we see this agreement as an important milestone in our 100-year relationship with Warner Bros.”
Cineworld is the first exhibitor to ink a deal with Warner Bros. that impacts the studio’s theatrical exclusivity window moving beyond the Covid-19 pandemic into 2022, though other chains have had their own internal negotiations with Warner Bros. to play their 2021 releases despite their day-and-date release strategy. Over the past year, Universal has made deals with AMC, Cinemark, and Cineplex to play their titles under a shortened window, while Paramount has announced a 30- to 45-day window for major titles. Disney continues to take a title-by-title approach, with Raya and the Last Dragon debuting simultaneously in theaters and on Disney Plus.
The long-awaited re-opening of Regal, paired with the continued vaccine roll-out, signals a potential revitalization of the United States’ theatrical marketplace as the industry enters the summer movie season. Wide releases over the coming weeks, assuming no further changes to the release calendar, include Godzilla vs. Kong and Mortal Kombat in April and, moving into May, Disney’s Black Widow (May 7) and Cruella (May 28), Lionsgate’s Spiral (May 21), and Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II (May 28).
“This is a great moment for us—the U.S. market represents 75% of our business—and soon will be followed with all our markets,” says Greidinger.
“We are great believers in the theatrical experience, which only a year ago (2019) generated $43B worldwide. We have no doubt that by offering our customers the highest level for watching a movie, Cineworld and Regal will continue to be – The Best Place to Watch a Movie.”