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Cineworld Theaters to Shut Down Across the U.S. and U.K.

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  • Cineworld will be closing all of its 536 Regal cinemas in the U.S. and its 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse locations in the U.K. after Thursday, October 8.
  • This follows news that the James Bond flick, “No Time to Die” has been pushed back from November to April 2021, making it the latest of several blockbusters to depart from a fall release.
  • As studios push their films back in hopes of releasing them at a more profitable time, theaters are put in a tricky place because they have nothing new to lure in crowds. Some argue that studios should just release their movies now and take the hit to save theaters. 
  • Others think local governments, namely New York’s, should be more open to reopening theaters so the industry can be saved. 

Cineworld Closes Locations

Cineworld announced early Monday that it will be closing its 536 Regal cinemas in the United States and its 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse venues across the United Kingdom after Thursday, October 8.

The movie theater giant, which is the second-largest behind AMC, has no reopening date in sight. The decision to suspend operations will impact 40,000 jobs in the U.S. and another 5,500 in the U.K. The company’s stocks dropped over 50% after markets opened on Monday morning. 

“This is not a decision we made lightly,” the company said in a statement. “We did everything in our power to support safe and sustainable re-openings of our cinemas and we are so very grateful for and proud of the hard work our employees put in to adapt our cinemas to the new protocols. We cannot underscore enough how difficult this decision was.”

“As we have done to date, we will do everything we can to save livelihoods and the Company – this is an extremely delicate and tricky balance.”

The announcement comes as the release date for the latest James Bond picture, “No Time to Die,” was delayed yet again, this time from November to April 2021. It is the latest fall movie to get pushed back, following “Black Widow,” which will now come out in 2021, and “Wonder Woman 1984,” which is currently slated for a Christmas premiere. As more and more blockbusters get pushed back, theaters find themselves lacking the content they need to bring audiences in. 

“We are like a grocery shop that doesn’t have vegetables, fruit, meat,” Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger told the Wall Street Journal. “We cannot operate for a long time without a product.”

It is unclear if AMC will follow suit and close any of its locations as the well of new films runs dry. Its stock also dropped with Cineworld’s, going down about 10% on Monday morning. 

Studios Delay Major Movies

Theaters are banking on studios to release blockbusters in order for them to survive, but studios find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. They have two options in front of them. They can release their pictures now to help theaters stay open, but they won’t make the kind of box office revenue that they would hope for out of big-budget movies like James Bond. Their other option is to continue to postpone releases, which means that both studios and theaters take a huge hit right now, but can hopefully see a bigger check in the future. 

Unsurprisingly, for the most part, studios have been choosing the path that could potentially lead to more money. Waiting to release movies is increasingly looking like the better option as Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” has underperformed at the domestic box office so far. While it has raked in a decent amount internationally, it’s smaller U.S. haul has scared other studios away from releasing their major projects too soon. 

But because theaters need more movies if they want to survive the pandemic, many believe theaters need to move forward and release new movies anyways. 

“While we can understand the studios’ desire to hold releases until the release environment is perfect, we also believe studios must be willing to take a hit to feed the industry and keep the exhibitor group from completely falling apart,” analyst Eric Wold said in a report. 

New York Restrictions

However, studios are not the only barrier blocking theaters from getting people in their seats. In fact, John Fithian, prescient and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, believes that its local governments that are most in the way because it is their limiting restrictions that are stopping studios from releasing movies. Two of the largest markets in the United States, Los Angeles and New York, are not open yet. Because theaters in other parts of California are already open, and Los Angeles could see reopenings soon, Fithian believes that the fault largely relies on New York, which has no reopening plans on the horizon for its movie theaters. 

“The failure of Gov. Cuomo to allow movie theaters to reopen anywhere in his state was a principal, if not exclusive, cause of the Bond move. If New York remains closed to theater operations, other movies scheduled for 2020 will move as well,” he said in an interview with Variety. “And I just don’t understand it. I know the governor has done a fantastic job combatting the virus. I know he’s got some increases of infections in some limited areas in the state. 

“But restaurants in New York are open, gyms are open, churches are open, indoor dining is being offered,” he added. “Our recommendation, our urgent plea, is for Gov. Cuomo to allow movie theaters to reopen in the portions of the state that aren’t having spikes in the virus.”

Fithian believes that New York’s box office is so critical that movies that have already been pushed to 2021 could actually come back to their 2020 dates if New York decides theaters can open their doors. He also believes this would be a safe decision because epidemiologists who have been asked to study potential links between virus outbreaks and movie theaters have not yet found one. 

Though, for his part, back in August, Cuomo explained that he did not think it would be necessary or practical for the state to start pushing ahead when it comes to movie theaters. 

“On a relative risk scale, a movie theater is less essential and poses a high risk,” he said during a coronavirus briefing. “It is congregant. It is one ventilation system. You are seated there for a long period of time.”

Since the industry has faced so many obstacles because of the pandemic, many are advocating for the government to financially assist theaters so they can stay up and running. At the end of September, major directors like Judd Apatow, James Cameron, Greta Gerwig, Christopher Nolan, Jordan Peele, Wes Anderson, Clint Eastwood, and Ang Lee all signed a letter urging Congress to provide needed support. 

“Absent a solution designed for their circumstances, theaters may not survive the impact of the pandemic,” the letters said. “Cinemas are an essential industry that represent the best that American talent and creativity have to offer. But now we fear for their future.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (Variety) (Hollywood Reporter)

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JoJo Siwa Swatted After Coming Out as Member of LGBTQ+ Community

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  • In an Instagram live on Saturday, YouTube star JoJo Siwa confirmed that police were called to her house on a false report, a dangerous trend commonly referred to as swatting. 
  • The incident happened hours after Siwa publicly confirmed that she is a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Siwa believes members of the media may have called the police in an effort to force her out of her home so they could photograph her amid the excitement surrounding her announcement. 

JoJo Siwa’s House Gets Swatted

JoJo Siwa, the 17-year old YouTube star who is massively popular among kids, was swatted at her home on Saturday, hours after coming out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

During an Instagram Live with her videographer Nate Javier, Siwa confirmed that officers from the Los Angeles Police Department were called to her house on a false report.

Everyone inside had to step out with their hands up. As this happened, Siwa says paparazzi came out from around the corner.

She believes the media called the police to force her outside so they could photograph her while there was so much excitement surrounding her coming out. 

She called the incident “really scary” but said that she is safe and fine. 

“For me it was no big deal to walk outside my house. I’m okay,” she said. “But I feel bad because there was about 50 police at our house and those police could have had much better time spent somewhere else actually helping somebody instead of dealing with a fake claim from paparazzi.” 

Siwa Comes Out

Siwa made headlines over the weekend as fans began to speculate that she might be coming out. They were first tipped off by a handful of TikToks she appeared in, including one where she lip-synched to “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga. Then on Friday, Siwa shared a photo of herself wearing a shirt from her cousin that said “Best. Gay. Cousin. Ever.”

Many took this photo as her coming out and began to celebrate her for sharing this. On Saturday the star went live on Instagram confirming that she is part of the LGTBQ community. She thanked her fans for their support. 

“I have never ever ever been this happy before and it feels awesome,” she said.  

Siwa said she is not yet ready to specifically label herself and that right now she is just happy to be open and sharing this part of her life with the public. 

“The reason I’m not ready to say this answer is because I don’t really know this answer,” she explained. 

“I wanna share everything with the world. I really do. But I also want to keep things in my life private until they are ready to be public,” Siwa continued. “Right now what matters is that you guys know that no matter who you love, that it’s okay.”

Praise for Siwa Rolls In 

Many stars have applauded Siwa online, including actress Kerry Washington, singer Lil Nas X, and YouTubers Liza Koshy and Colleen Ballinger. 

“You’ve got our love,” Koshy wrote. “Shine on as always!”

“This is the happiest I’ve ever seen you,” Ballinger said. “You’re absolutely glowing and I’m so proud of the woman you are becoming. 

Many were also quick to point out the potential impact her coming out could have considering her large following of young people. 

“JoJo Siwa’s decision to share her truth with the world is a powerful moment,” wrote Sarah Kate Ellis, the president of GLAAD. 

“As one of the most influential young role models today, Jojo’s story is a reminder for LGBTQ youth to love who they are and to find safe and welcoming environments to speak out.”

See what others are saying: (BuzzFeed News) (Newsweek) (Seventeen)

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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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