NEW YORK (AP) — Regal Cinemas, the second largest movie theater chain in the U.S., will reopen beginning April 2, its parent company, Cineworld Group, announced Tuesday.
Regal had been one of most notable holdouts in the gradual reopening of cinemas nationwide. For nearly half a year, its 7,211 screens and 549 theatres in the U.S. have been dark. Doors will open early next month with attendance limited to 25% to 50% capacity in about 500 locations.
Cineworld also agreed to a new multi-year deal with Warner Bros. Beginning next year, the studio's releases will have a 45-day exclusive window at Regal cinemas, roughly slicing in half the traditional period. That doesn't apply to Warner releases this year, which are streaming simultaneously on HBO Max when they open in theaters.
“We are very happy for the agreement with Warner Bros." said Mooky Greidinger, chief executive of Cineworld. "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."
Regal's April 2 reopening coincides with the release of Warner Bros.' “Godzilla vs. Kong.”
The agreement is the latest in a reordering of the theatrical marketplace — a sea change accelerated by the pandemic but viewed as long-in-coming by some analysts given the rise in streaming services.
Universal Pictures last November agreed to deals with AMC and Cinemark — the first- and third-largest chains — to shrink the theatrical window to 17 days, or three weekends. Greidinger at the time said the company didn't see “any business sense" in that model.
The Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday said it would release several of its largest upcoming films, including the Marvel movie “Black Widow” simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+.
In the United Kingdom, where Cineworld is targeting a May reopening, the Warner agreement shortens the theatrical window to 31 days but can be extended to 45 days if a film reaches a certain box-office threshold.
About half of North American theaters were open as of last week, according to data firm Comscore. In the past few weeks, theaters have been allowed to reopen in New York and Los Angeles — the two largest U.S. markets — for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.
“With capacity restrictions expanding to 50% or more across most U.S. states, we will be able to operate profitably in our biggest markets,” said Greidinger.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP