Apr 21, 2020 - Economy

What's next for movie theaters as some states eye coronavirus reopening

Data: Morning Consult; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios
Data: Morning Consult; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

President Trump's latest guidelines for "Opening Up America Again" may be too optimistic for things like movie theaters and concerts, analysts predict.

Driving the news: Georgia’s governor said yesterday that the state will reopen theaters on April 27, granted that they take strict social distancing and safety precautions.

  • But at this point, it's unclear whether any of the major theater chains will actually reopen by next week.

Yes, but: Even if distressed theater chains, concert venues, ticketing platforms and politicians are eager for out-of-home entertainment to re-open, surveys show that consumer sentiment around attending leisure events is still largely behind the federal government's plans to open up.

  • And at this point, so many theater chains have laid off or furloughed employees that it will be almost impossible for them to quickly get back up and running again without reassessing their workforces and finances.

By the numbers: According to a new Morning Consult survey, about a third of U.S. adults say they won't be comfortable going to out of home entertainment for another 3-6 months, and about a quarter say they wouldn't go for at least another six months.

  • According to Trump's plan, large venues, such as movie theaters and sporting venues may begin to open up in the next few months during "stage one" of the three-phased plan, so long as they operate under strict physical distancing protocols.

The bottom line: Analysts say that they expect theater chains to take extra precautions upon opening, including additional cleaning and distancing measures, but even with those efforts, consumers will still have doubts until there's a vaccine.

  • "[I]t’s hard to envision people returning with the same vigor that they showed in the past, and it’s likely that at best, box office would be a fraction of what it was prior to the pandemic," says Michael Pachter, a research analyst at Wedbush Securities 
  • "Once there is a vaccine, things will likely return to a semblance of normal over time, but if there is a genuine risk of contracting the virus by attending a theater, it’s hard to see how many people will feel comfortable doing so."

Go deeper ... Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Week 6: Too soon for "normal" reopening

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