Studio Movie Grill has become the second major U.S. exhibitor—following CMX Cinemas—to file for Chapter 11 restructuring as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects upon the theater industry.
Based out of Dallas, Texas and spread across ten states, Studio Movie Grill is the largest dine-in chain North America and the 11th largest chain overall. On March 17, the chain closed all but seven of its 34 locations. The reopening process began on June 19 with three theaters in Texas; since that time, the chain has continued to reopen theaters and offer promotions as a method to entice moviegoers to return. As of October 18, 21 of its theaters had returned to operation.
In a statement on Studio Movie Grill’s Chapter 11 filing, founder and chairman Brian Schultz cited the “unparalleled impact of COVID-19” upon the circuit. Studio Movie Grill will close an unspecified number of theaters and work with those landlords to restructure those leases “as it determines the portfolio of go-forward theaters,” says Schultz. The remaining theaters will operate on a “business as usual basis”—including following the CinemaSafe procedures set by NATO in collaboration with a team of epidemiologists—through the reorganization process, which SMG intends to complete “as quickly as possible.”
The restructuring, said Schultz, “will allow us the opportunity to position Studio Movie Grill for long-term stability” as they recover from Covid-19’s impact. He adds: “Our restructuring demonstrates our commitment to SMG’s future and to welcoming back our 7,000 plus treasured team members as we strive to preserve our mission to open hearts and minds, one story at a time. Our guests can also be assured that we have always been, and will continue to be, committed to your safety and have the resources to do so. During the Chapter 11 process, SMG is fully committed to continuing to offer great service, and a simple, safer way to enjoy movies + meals in a welcoming environment in support of the future of theatergoing. Film and all creative arts are an integral and powerful part of the joy of the human experience, a way for us to better understand the lives of those around us and to come together, which we cannot afford to lose.”
A pioneer in the dine-in space, Studio Movie Grill entered 2020 with plans for expansion. In April 2019 the chain received a strategic growth investment of $100 million, which—said Schultz at the time—would allow Studio Movie Grill to “leverage our powerful community-centric business model to drive growth.” The end of 2019 saw SMG open two new theaters, located in Charlotte, North Carolina and Glendale, California. In January 2020, two months before the North American theater industry ground to a halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic, SMG announced plans to open five new locations throughout the year. Of those, only one—Chisholm Trail (pictured above), in Fort Worth, Texas—was able to open, in August of this year.