As we’ve written about dozens of times already, cinemas in the US are facing an existential crisis right now and the COVID-19 pandemic is only adding to this issue. Even without a global pandemic forcing theaters in the US to close for months, the theatrical exhibition business has suffered over the past several years as people just find other things to do other than visit cinemas. That is, unless there’s a new superhero film. Now, with states allowing for businesses to reopen across the country, movie theaters are finally able to start making money again. Well, in some places, at least.
According to Variety, a group of movie theater companies, including AMC, Regal, and Cinemark, are suing the state of New Jersey to allow for them to open alongside other businesses that they deem to be similar. Again, this is a crisis that goes beyond the global pandemic, but right now, these companies are fighting to survive and they are desperate to open their doors..even if the government doesn’t think it’s completely safe to do so.
The argument stems from the decision in New Jersey to force movie theaters to wait until Phase 3 to reopen for business. In many other states, cinemas are able to open, with reduced capacities during Phase 2, which means that most will be able to allow customers back by the end of the month. However, in New Jersey, they just began Phase 2, which allows for malls, libraries, churches, and museums to reopen, but not theaters. And Phase 3 isn’t even on the schedule, yet.
The lawsuit says, “Plaintiffs bring this action to ensure that movie theatre are treated equally with other similarly situated places of public assembly, and in order to exercise their First Amendment rights to exhibit films of significant artistic, cultural, political and popular merit.”
It adds, “There is no rational basis for Defendants’ distinction between, for example, places of worship and movie theatres for purposes of reopening, yet Defendants have allowed places of worship to reopen while movie theatres must remain closed, with no scheduled date for reopening.”
As states, from a business standpoint, it’s clear why AMC, Regal, and Cinemark are leading the charge and suing to open their doors as soon as possible. They need to survive, and they all have shareholders to answer to. However, from a public health perspective, it’s a bit odd that a company is trying to sue the government to allow them to possibly reopen early and contribute to the spread of a deadly illness that has already taken the lives of over 120,000 citizens. But hey, this is America, and as Wu-Tang famously said, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me!”
We’ll have to see if this lawsuit actually is successful or if this might throw a wrench into theaters’ reopening strategies moving forward. Of course, this could all be for naught if the movie studios continue to delay the release of tentpole features. Who needs an AMC, Regal, and Cinemark if there’s no Christopher Nolan film to watch?