National Association of Theater Owners Reassures Fans Industry Will Rebound After Widespread Coronavirus Closures

Due to the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus throughout the United States, the CDC has issued new guidelines to attempt to curb the spread of the disease by suggesting the cancellation of mass gatherings. This has put movie theaters into a particular bind since their entire business model is based around assembling multiple rooms of 100+ all together to watch new movies. Studios have begun to delay the release of their movies in order to prevent box office flops as theater chains themselves have started to close down entirely to prevent its spread, with some of them closed for as long as twelve weeks.

This has resulted in a surprising move by some studios as Universal Pictures has announced that some of their films that would still currently be playing in theaters will be released early to rent on VOD platforms. The Hunt and The Invisible Man which opened in theaters a few weeks ago will be available to rent starting this Friday while the upcoming Trolls World Tour will be released on VOD platforms on April 10, the same day that it would have opened in theaters. The news of these early digital releases, and the closure of most venues in the country, have people wondering about the future of the movie theater business once the pandemic concludes; will it still exist?

The Natioanl Association of Theater Owners, who has to cancel their annual CinemaCon event last week, have released an extensive statement about the future of the theater business, assuring movie fans worldwide that the theater experience will return.

"Although there has been speculation in the media that the temporary closure of theaters will lead to accelerated or exclusive releases of theatrical titles to home streaming, such speculation ignores the underlying financial logic of studio investment in theatrical titles," their statement reads in part. "To avoid catastrophic losses to the studios, these titles must have the fullest possible theatrical release around the world. While one or two releases may forgo theatrical release, it is our understanding from discussions with distributors that the vast majority of deferred releases will be rescheduled for theatrical release as life returns to normal."

NATO goes on to note that once the pandemic is resolved, though when that will be remains to be seen, the studios will have a full crop of feature films to be released in movie theaters around the world since many of them have been delayed already.

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"People will return to movie theaters because that is who people are," they add. "When they return they will rediscover a cutting edge, immersive entertainment experience that they have been forcefully reminded they cannot replicate at home. In the uncertain, difficult economy ahead, movie theaters will fill the role they always have in boom times and in recessions – the most popular, affordable entertainment available outside the home."

(Cover photo by KEHAN CHEN via Getty Images)