It won’t likely be until October that Galleria Cinemas will resume operations, its President Chris Mortimer said yesterday, adding that the theater won’t open its doors to patrons unless there are movies to show.
Following the global outbreak of COVID-19, major Hollywood studios delayed movie releases to later this year or indefinitely in some cases.
Mortimer said while some movies are scheduled for release as early as September, he doesn’t see his company offering tickets until the end of that month or October.
“Our position on the matter is we’re going to open when there’s new product to play. The cost of operating a theater, the cost of electricity and all of the other costs of running a theater as well as going into late August or September when consumers are generally consumed with school fees and books and all the rest of those other things, I don’t suspect that it’s going to be until late September the earliest or probably October,” he told Guardian Business yesterday.
Mortimer said the company is presently getting sanitizing protocols in place, along with all of the things that are necessary to ensure customers are safe when they do return to the theater.
Another measure being considered right now is lowering the cost of going to the movie theater, given the economic crisis the country has been faced with and the thousands of Bahamians who may have reduced disposable cash.
“We’re looking at how best we can – because we’re going to have a challenged environment – make going to the movies even less expensive for patrons when they come back,” Mortimer said.
“So, we are looking at possibly a reduction in ticket prices so that people’s hard earned money, especially in this environment, that it goes further.”
Like most businesses, Galleria Cinemas was forced to close in March when the country was placed under a state of emergency due to the spread of COVID-19.
However, unlike many businesses deemed non-essential that would have resumed operations when the government relaxed restrictions last month, movie theaters have been ordered to remain closed.
Mortimer said despite this setback he believes the company is on good footing to survive this time being shuttered.
“The good thing is over the course of the past year – last year and this year – basically we have taken the position where we were tightening up expenses. Even from the ending part of April, all of the information that I had received from various insiders in California, was that it was going to be somewhere at the earliest September before theaters could come back. So, basically what we’ve done is we’ve moved to curtail the amount of expenditure over the past several months so that by the time the theater industry is ready to return we will be ready to go,” he said.
“We’re just waiting and we’re getting information from our studio partners as to when they think the exhibition industry is going to return. And quite honestly, it’s not going to return until it returns globally. Because theater chains in China are not open, in the UK for the most part they’re not open, the United States the majors are not open and so with these pictures that cost $200 million or $150 million to produce, none of the major studios are going to release these pictures in this time. So, as long as there are spiking cases of COVID-19 in all of the major markets around the world, I don’t think that there will be any new film product prior to October.”
Asked how much he believes Galleria would have lost financially during this period of closure, Mortimer said, “It’s all subjective, I don’t subscribe to the whole philosophy of ‘this is what we’ve lost’, because you never earned it in the first place, so there is nothing to lose,” he said.
“The fact of the matter is you can base something on a picture and the picture flops and it doesn’t do anything. But like everything else we have been challenged and the only thing we understand that we can control is our expenditure and so, more importantly, what we’ve been doing is trying to hold the costs in terms of expenditure, especially the big ticket items. We’re working with our partners, the landlord and staff to ensure that whenever the government rightly decides the best time for the industry to open, whereby we won’t become a factor in the increase of COVID-19 cases, whenever that happens we will be ready at that time to resume.”