The movie theater industry has been slammed by the coronavirus pandemic on both national and local levels and has seen its enterprise on movie releases shrink. Theaters that financially survive the pandemic are considered the lucky ones.
In Albuquerque, permanent closures include both Movies 8 and Movies West theaters of the Cinemark chain, leaving the city without any “one dollar theaters.”
While major theater chains struggle, local theaters face similar, if not more dire, financial consequences.
Keif Henly, owner of the Guild Cinema in Nob Hill, said revenue is extremely down due to COVID-19 but the online streaming service the cinema has used has helped with lost revenues.
There’s not yet word on when the indie theater and community staple will reopen to the public.
The small theater inside of the Student Union Building at the University of New Mexico is still working out options on how to safely have a “cinematic experience” in accordance with state guidelines, according to its website.
Another major roadblock for the reopening of the SUB theater, which typically screens films that have already left theaters, has been the delayed release of many films from major studios.
While major theaters across the country have begun to reopen, it is unlikely that theaters in New Mexico will reopen anytime soon. All Cinemark, Regal and AMC theaters in Albuquerque and the state at large remain closed. Other theaters, such as the Icon Cinema, Allen Theaters and the Guild Cinema also remain closed.
While Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham did announce new guidelines for businesses from the NMDOH, which eased restrictions for many businesses like churches and restaurants, it did not allow theaters to reopen.
But the question still lingers: How many people would even go back to theaters?
An EDO report called Social Distancing Moviegoing and TV Habits, released in April and reported on by Deadline, suggested that 70% of people would likely return to the movies.
However, the report stated that only 45% of people said that they were highly likely to return to the theater and another 45% would wait a few weeks before they would enter a cinema.
UNM student Danny Martinez said that he would wait to return to theaters until “there is sufficient evidence that theaters are safe and that outbreaks don’t occur because of them.”
UNM student John Smith echoed this sentiment, as there is a legitimate fear that theaters with their crowded and cramped spaces could become hot spots for the virus.
“Until we see what happens when theaters across this country reopen, I can’t say if I will go back to a theater in the near future,” Smith said.
Spencer Butler is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SpencerButler48