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Here’s Why Many Movie Theaters Won’t Reopen Soon, Even If States Say They Can

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  • The National Association of Theater Owners warned that despite authorization for cinemas to reopen in certain states, many will not feasibly be able to. In Georgia, theaters can reopen as early as Monday, but local owners have refused and are simply not prepared to.
  • Many theaters still need time to reassess finances, rehire staff, ramp-up cleaning measures, and rethink seating arrangements to maintain social distancing. 
  • New film releases are also still several weeks away and theaters aren’t likely to release those projects if they can’t fill seats.  
  • Morning Consult survey found that a third of U.S. adults say they won’t be comfortable going to out of home entertainment for another 3-6 months.

Theater Owners Warn Against Reopening Too Soon 

While some states are moving to reopen businesses, The National Association of Theatre Owners warned Wednesday that most cinemas won’t be opening right away, even if they’re legally permitted to do so.

“Until the majority of markets in the U.S. are open, and major markets in particular, new wide release movies are unlikely to be available,” the group said in a statement. “As a result, some theaters in some areas that are authorized to open may be able economically to reopen with repertory product; however, many theaters will not be able to feasibly open.”

The statement from theater owners came in response to news that a handful of Southern states are teaming up to lift some restrictions currently in place amid the coronavirus pandemic. This includes places like Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who has approved the broadest rollback of orders in a state so far, plans to reopen restaurants and movie theaters as early as Monday. Businesses like gyms, bowling alleys, and hair salons, are permitting to reopen in the state Friday. 

Kemp’s decision was met with backlash from local mayors who are urging people to continue to stay home and business owners who have vowed to remain closed. It even faced criticism from celebrities like rapper Cardi B, who urged fans to prioritize “HEALTH OVER CAPITALISM!”

On Tuesday, President Trump also expressed concerns about Kemp’s plans, telling reporters, “I told the governor of Georgia Brian Kemp that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities which are in violation of the phase one guidelines for the incredible people of Georgia.”

Still, the president said he wants Kemp to “do what he thinks is right” but warned that if he sees “something totally egregious,” he will step in. The President’s remarks came as a surprise to some given the support he’s shown protestors in other states pushing to reopen their local economies. 

Why Theaters Cant Reopen Quickly 

According to Deadline, big chains like AMC, Regal, and Cinemark, confirmed that they won’t be opening up anytime soon. AMC is reportedly eyeing early June openings, Cinemark is considering early July, and Regal hasn’t officially landed on a date yet. 

So then you’re probably wondering: what theaters are reopening in Georgia? Well, it will likely only be drive-ins and independent theater owners who own their own properties. For many exhibitors who have abatements in their rental leases, it’s just not in their best financial interest to reopen if there isn’t a new supply of products from major studios.

And studios won’t want to release their newest projects if they can’t fill seats. As of now, there aren’t any new movie releases slated until mid-June, when films like The King of Staten Island and Fatale are set to drop. Even more people have their eyes on films dropping in July, like Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Disney’s Mulan. 

Some indie studios have already said they won’t allow their films to be exhibited in Georgia theaters that open next week. “We will not be participating in that,” said Tom Quinn, CEO of Neon, the distributor of Oscar-winner “Parasite” and “I, Tonya.”

“I hope people do the sensible thing and self-isolate,” he continued. 

Chris Escobar, the owner of the Plaza Theater in Atlanta, told Variety, “You have to have movies to show.”

“Second, you have to have people willing to come in,” he added before stressing that there was no reassurance from public health authorities that it is safe to reopen. “I don’t want to be that movie theater, where the outbreak in Atlanta is all related to the f–king Plaza Theatre,” he said. “I don’t think anybody does.”

Reopening theaters also isn’t something that can just be done quickly since it means theaters will have to reassess their workforce and finances. 

“We are not going to open on Monday, and we don’t have any plans as to when we would,”  Brandt Gully, the owner of The Springs Cinema & Taphouse near Atlanta said to Variety.Even if we wanted to, we wouldn’t be ready. It just doesn’t feel socially responsible to me to go out there to try to grab a few bucks.”

Theaters have been closed since about mid-March, so reopening means they’ll need to rehire or find new staff. However, at this time it’s really unclear how many workers are needed and what the demand for movies will be like. 

According to a 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.

On top of that, theaters will also have to rethink ticket practices, additional cleaning measures, and seating arrangements to maintain social distancing. 

For some theater owners, reopening right now just doesn’t feel like the right move. “No one is demanding this,” Escobar told Variety. “Even the people saying, ‘I need a haircut,’ they’re not saying, ‘I need to go see a movie.’” 

Though theaters can reopen in Georgia soon, film productions are still on hold as of now. Marvel movies, show like “The Walking Dead,” and hundreds of other projects are filmed in Georgia thanks to the state’s generous 30% tax credit.

But in a statement provided to Variety, the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office said the state was “cautiously working on plans” for a return to normal operations, which could include a testing system. 

“We will continue to work with studios to make decisions based on what is best for public health and the safety of our terrific crews here, not what is happening in other states,” Lee Thomas, the director of the state film office, said.

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (Hollywood Reporter) (Variety) 

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Joe Rogan Says Grimes Did Not Give Dave Chappelle COVID-19

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  • Comedian Dave Chappelle is under quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. He is asymptomatic and his remaining shows in Austin, Texas have been canceled.
  • The news comes just days after Chappelle was photographed with Joe Rogan, Elon Musk, Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.
  • “Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” Rogan wrote on Instagram Friday. “Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”

Chappelle Tests Positive

Comedian Dave Chappelle has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently under quarantine, according to one of his representatives.

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, that rep also confirmed that he is currently asymptomatic and has canceled all of his remaining shows at Stubbs Waller Creek Amphitheater in Austin, Texas.

“Chappelle has safely conducted socially-distanced shows in Ohio since June 2020 and he moved those shows to Austin during the winter,” the statement read.

“Chappelle implemented COVID-19 protocols which included rapid testing for the audience and daily testing for himself and his team. His diligent testing enabled him to immediately respond by quarantining, thus mitigating the spread of the virus,” it continued.

Joe Rogan Speaks Out After He Was Photographed With Chappelle

Two of the remaining Austin shows were supposed to include fellow comedian Joe Rogan. Rogan took to Instagram Friday morning to announce that they will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

Still, many fans had questions about Rogan’s current state of health. The news of Chappelle’s positive test comes just days after he was photographed maskless with Rogan, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, musician Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.

Since Grimes, who is also in a relationship with Musk, recently had COVID, many were concerned that she may have exposed the group. Others wondered if Chappelle may have spread it.

Rogan eventually updates his Instagram caption to dismiss the ideas.

“Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” he wrote.“Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”

See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNN) (AP News)

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Netflix Passes 200M Subscribers as Other Streamers Struggle With Retention

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  • In a letter to shareholders, Netflix said it has hit over 200 million subscribers following a successful year of growth.
  • The pandemic gave Netflix a significant subscriber boost in March and April. The company continued to perform well even in its final quarter, gaining 8.5 million subscribers when it was only projected to add 6 million.
  • The data also highlights how relatively unaffected Netflix has been by new streaming services entering the market. While companies like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock continue to grow, they also struggle to retain the subscribers that sign up.

Netflix Passes 200 Million Subscribers

Netflix has topped 200 million subscribers following a year of strong growth in 2020.

In its Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix announced that it added 8.5 million subscribers in its fourth quarter. This exceeds projections, which estimated the streaming giant would only add around 6 million. In total, Netflix gained 37 million new memberships throughout 2020, bringing the company to 203.6 million subscribers.

Pandemic lockdowns gave Netflix a substantial boost in March in April. In the company’s first two quarters, it added a combined 25.7 million subscribers. According to data from the letter, Netflix had added over 10 million more subscribers by May of 2020 than it had by May of 2019.

When it comes to the success of their fourth quarter, Netflix pointed to shows like “Bridgerton” and “The Crown.” The fourth season of “The Crown” hit the platform in November, prompting many to return to older seasons of the show. Netflix claims the series has been viewed by 100 million households since it first aired in 2016.

Success Amid Growth of Competition

The year 2020 could have been a difficult one for Netflix as new streaming services entered the market. Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Peacock and more have all made waves with their original programming or by taking some of their brand’s content from Netflix to host on their own site. User-based content on YouTube and TikTok also became increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, further posing as a threat to Netflix. 

Still, it reached a massive milestone. 

“Our strategy is simple: if we can continue to improve Netflix every day to better delight our members, we can be their first choice for streaming entertainment,” Netflix said in the letter. “This past year is a testament to this approach.”

Netflix potentially sees Disney+ as the biggest competitor among new platforms. In its letter, the company noted that the streamer added 87 million subscribers in its first year. In a Q&A, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings seemed enthusiastic about this competition.

“It’s super impressive what Disney’s done,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the world that Disney and Netflix are competing show-by-show, movie-by-movie. We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation, maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see. It’s a long way to go just to catch them, and maintaining our lead in general entertainment that’s so stimulating like ‘Bridgerton,’ which I don’t think you’re going to see on Disney anytime soon.”

Streamers Struggle with Retaining Subscribers

Even as new streamers have had impressive years, there is one hurdle that many are still struggling to jump over: retaining the subscribers who sign up. The Los Angeles Times named Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+ in particular, writing that people create accounts with these services, watch the TV shows or movies they are interested in, and cancel once they are done.

An October survey from Deloitte said that 46% of respondents canceled at least one streaming service in the last 6 months, which is up 20% from January of last year. Most who had canceled said they did so because they had finished watching whatever programming it was that brought them to that service. 

Places like Disney+ and HBO Max are really vulnerable to this because they have banked on drawing people in with exclusive marquis titles like “Hamilton” or “Wonder Woman 1984.” However, since they are newer, they are still building their original programming catalog, meaning that people can quickly burn through highlight titles. 

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Wall Street Journal) (The Hollywood Reporter)

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Paramount+ To Launch March 4

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  • ViacomCBS is launching Paramount+ in the United States and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out to other markets internationally later this year. 
  • The streaming service will be a relaunch and expansion of CBS All Access. It will include content from Nickelodeon, MTV, and more on top of the CBS-focused selection. 

Paramount+ Gets Launch Date

ViacomCBS will be launching its streaming service Paramount+ in the U.S. and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out in more countries throughout the year. 

It will be an expansion and rebrand of CBS All Access, the service the company currently offers that is used by nearly 8 million subscribers. Paramount+ will go beyond the CBS-centric content promoted there, including works from brands like Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and the Smithsonian Channel.

More details about their streaming strategy will be released during an investor event on February 24. Right now, ViacomCBS is boasting that the service will have over 30,000 episodes and movies in their catalog, which will also include live sports and breaking news. 

“The Paramount brand is known and loved all around the world, and is synonymous with great entertainment. It’s always brought people together, which makes it a perfect fit for a streaming service that’s uniquely positioned to do the same,” Josh Line the chief brand officer of ViacomCBS said during a brand announcement in September. “The Paramount+ streaming service will elevate ViacomCBS’ iconic family of brands.”

State of the Streaming Wars

Paramount+ has already announced a slew of original projects including a revival of “iCarly” and a series about the making of “The Godfather” titled “The Offer.”

The service is entering an already crowded battlefield as the streaming wars wages on. It will have plenty of uphill battles to fight since brand recognition for Paramount is not nearly as strong as it is for studios like Disney or NBCUniversal. It will also have to compete with Netflix, which leads the pack in subscribers and unveils new content regularly; HBO Max, which will be home to Warner Media’s new theatrical releases; and Hulu, which hosts original content as well as shows currently airing on cable and network television. 

ViacomCBS has not released information on pricing, but that will likely come during or before the February investor event.

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Deadline) (CNBC)

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