Regal Cinemas closure reflects serious plight of movie theaters

On Monday, British company Cineworld, which owns Regal Cinemas in the United States, announced it would temporarily close all of its 663 movie theaters in both countries, a move expected to impact 45,000 employees and send the future of the entertainment industry further into uncertainty.

Austin Bunn, associate professor of performing and media arts at Cornell University, is an award-winning expert in filmmaking and scriptwriting. He says the decision to close cinemas across the country reflects a long-standing need to redesign the movie-going experience:

"Like the shuttering of museums and theatrical spaces across the country during the pandemic, Cineworld's decision to close all its Regal Cinemas in the U.S. is at once both deeply painful and understandable. But unlike museums and theater spaces, American movie theaters are long overdue for transformation. Designed during the blockbuster era of movie-going – with megaplexes resembling cavernous airport hangars, with no discernible atmosphere or curatorial imprint, and ‘concessions’ tailored to our worst instincts – movie theater chains are in desperate need of personality to win back audiences from their couches, dialed-in home-theater sound systems, and infinite streaming options.

“The plight of the theaters was already serious. The Alamo Drafthouse phenomenon – food, adult beverages, smaller scale cinemas with actual programmers at the helm – points to the future of movie-going. The end of the Paramount Consent Decree in August means that studios can now own and operate movie theaters. Perhaps Disney, Warner Brothers and even smaller studios might carve our path back to the movie theater – they are our best hope. Movies themselves deeply reflect and respond to our culture. Movie theaters should as well."

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		 Rows of empty red theater seats