Paramount cinema billboard: covid-19 "intermission". Photo by Nick Bolton on Unsplash

Giving closed cinemas a second act

As the pandemic keeps audiences away, developers could soon face an adaptive reuse dilemma: What can you do with dead megaplexes

When a tub of popcorn can run nearly $10, renting out an entire theater for $99 seems like a steal. For AMC Theatres, the mega-chain that recently introduced the private screening plan as a Covid-era concession to safety and shrinking audiences, it’s more a desperate ploy to keep the lights on as the American megaplexes face the prospect of a final showing.

Recent coronavirus case spikes, new lockdowns and the expectation of minimal family outings during the holidays has turned a year of bad news for the country’s cinemas into an outlook that’s simply bleak. In early October, when Regal Cinemas shuttered all 500-plus locations nationwide, that darkened more than 7,000 screens alone. The industry has already seen a cinema cull in the U.S., per the National Association of Theatre Owners, with the number of movie theaters shrinking from around 7,200 in 1996 to roughly 5,500 as of late 2019. But that may just be a preview……

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