Coronavirus: Some movie theaters may not recover from COVID-19 shutdown

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Movie theaters in Georgia are allowed to open Monday by order of the state's governor, but it's not clear how many -- if any -- will turn on the lights.

What films would they show if they did? The summer blockbuster season was supposed to start soon, but most of the major releases have been delayed until the fall and beyond.

The new James Bond film, "No Time To Die," is just one of the blockbusters bumped from the spring to the fall. The film is finished, but as ABC News Chief Business, Technology and Economics Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis explains, "They're on hold until there's more clarity around quarantines."

The message to moviegoers on the marquee at "Cinema 1, 2, 3" on the Upper East Side reads, "Stay safe and healthy. We look forward to having you back." But make no mistake, these are dark days for movie theaters that were forced to close last month. And many of them may never reopen.

"Up to 25% of the movie screens in this country could close as a result of this crisis," Jarvis said. "Just like a lot of retailers are having to shut down store locations, so too are movie theaters."

The nation's exhibitors were in trouble before the pandemic pause, because they borrowed so many billions of dollars to upgrade at a time when more Americans are watching movies at home.

"This quarantine has completely accelerated what already was happening," Jarvis said. "People weren't going to the movies in droves. They were only going to see the mega blockbuster hits, which you need to see on the big screen to really enjoy them."
Instead, folks are streaming. Disney+, which is owned by ABC's parent company. It launched in November and has already attracted more than 50 million subscribers.

On other platforms, shows like "Little Fires Everywhere" and "Tiger King" have drawn huge audiences while the nation's movie theaters sit idle and empty.

Ironically, at least one theater has been saved by a streamer. Netflix took a long-term lease on the Paris Theater, next to The Plaza Hotel, so New Yorkers can say -- as Bogart once did in "Casablanca," -- "We'll always have Paris."
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