Regal Cinemas to close 39 U.S. theaters following bankruptcy

Second-largest movie chain to reject leases in California, New York and Florida

The silver screens at dozens of Regal Cinemas across the nation will go dark soon.

The Tennessee-based movie chain, the second largest in the U.S., will close 39 theaters from Los Angeles to New York to Miami after its parent company in the U.K. declared bankruptcy, Variety reported, citing legal filings.

Cineworld Group, based in London, will reject the Regal Cinemas leases beginning Feb. 15.

Amid a plunge in the domestic box office during the COVID-19 pandemic, the monthly rent per theater increased by nearly 30 percent from 2019 to 2022, according to the latest bankruptcy filing.

“In total, the debtors estimate that rejecting the leases will save their estates approximately $22 million annually,” the document states. Any personal property of little value remaining at each theater will be abandoned.

Cineworld, which filed for bankruptcy in September, operates 747 movie theaters with 9,139 screens in 10 countries, with about 500 of those theaters in the U.S.

The company, which acquired the Regal Cinemas chain for $3.6 billion in 2018, is the world’s second-largest movie theater group behind AMC Entertainment Holdings. In its bankruptcy filing, it indicated it might cut leases for 20 of its 505 U.S. locations.

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Trips to movie theaters took a major hit during the pandemic, with the domestic box office last year falling to $7.5 billion, a 30-percent drop from the $11.4 billion in 2019, before COVID.

The company lost $3 billion in 2020, as many theaters remained closed, and took a $708 million before-tax loss in 2021. The net debt, excluding lease liabilities, was $4.84 billion.

The 39 locations to close will include seven cinemas in California, two in Florida and six in New York state, according to Business Insider, first to report the news.

In California, Regal will close theaters in Berkeley and Los Angeles, plus two in Orange County. The New York closures include one in Union Square in New York City. The Florida closures include theaters in Miami Beach and Boca Raton.

Cineworld told the court that its plan to reject the leases for 39 locations would help it save $22 million a year and that it is still working with landlords to preserve other theaters, according to Business Insider.

— Dana Bartholomew

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