NEW YORK – U.S. movie theaters have closed nationwide due to the coronavirus pandemic, turning dark nearly all of the country's 40,000-plus screens in an unprecedented shutdown.
With most of Hollywood's March and April releases already postponed, the Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday also cleared out its May releases as well, including Marvel's “Black Widow.”
The largest chains had tried to remain open even as Hollywood postponed its upcoming release plans and guidelines for social distancing steadily diminished the recommended size of crowds. But after President Donald Trump on Monday urged against gatherings of more than 10 people, AMC Theaters, the nation's largest chain, said Tuesday its theaters would close altogether.
AMC, which has two multiscreen locations in Fort Wayne, said the latest guidelines made movie theater operations “essentially impossible.” It said it would close all locations in the U.S. for at least six to 12 weeks.
Regal, the second-largest chain with one Fort Wayne location, said Monday that its theaters would close until further notice.
With movie theaters locked down for the foreseeable future, some studios took the extraordinary step of funneling new or recently released films onto home viewing platforms. Universal Pictures said Monday it will make its current and upcoming films available for on-demand rental, becoming the first major studio to break the traditional theatrical window of 90 days due to the pandemic.
The studio said it will put movies currently in theaters – “Invisible Man,” “The Hunt,” “Emma” – up for rental as early as Friday. It also said that “Trolls World Tour,” one of the only major releases left on the April calendar, will debut in theaters and on-demand services simultaneously.
Most of Europe's cinemas have already shut down, as have those in China and India.