In the latest setback on the film industry's recovery during the pandemic in the US and UK, Cineworld Group's CEO Mooky Greidinger puts the blame on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on his inflexibility. The decision to temporarily shutter its cinemas again comes on the heels of MGM and Eon's to delay the 25th Bond film No Time to Die a second time from its November date to Easter 2021. Greidinger spoke to Deadline Hollywood about the move. "It is not an easy situation, but we will get through this and I think it is the right decision," Greidinger said. "I believe that people should understand that cinemas all over the world, and for sure in the U.S., are in a way closing down in view of Governor Cuomo's inflexibility. The Governor allows in-restaurant dining, bowling alleys, casinos, and others, but he will not allow cinemas. Cinemas have taken huge steps and made a big investment in creating 'CinemaSafe' protocols and we can clearly say after operating the cinemas for over two months, that we are offering a safe environment for our customers."
Greidinger took the exception to Cuomo singling out the industry. "There is no rationale," he continued. "We received messages like 'cinema is not essential' and we fail to understand why other indoor activities are essential, but cinema excluded. Other than that, we never received a real explanation as to why New York, which had great success in the war against COVID in general, does not allow us to come back like it's been done all over the world. Cinemas have been open all over the world and in the U.S. for over two months now and there have been no COVID cases up to now, thankfully. The safety precautions in cinemas are very good and they are very effective. We have a lot of busy shows in Central Europe with the local product, but there is no doubt after what happened with Tenet, the studios will not release movies without New York."
The CEO explained the fight was ongoing, but Bond was the last straw. "As you know, the cost of running the cinemas without movies is very high, but we said internally that we would hold for the coming six weeks (until Bond) and keep the business open for our customers and for our employees.," he said. "But when the Bond decision arrived, a decision that followed numerous delays of other movies, we had to change the direction, close the cinemas and wait for a situation where the studios will be able to present a solid release schedule. The main thing blocking the studios is that they don't see movement in New York — and in some other places — but New York is kind of the symbol. Even California is already 50% open." Greidinger said he's taking a wait-and-see approach from other studios for a clearer timetable on when to reopen. "Whether it's in a month's time or two months' time or longer, I cannot guess," he continued. "I hope it will be sooner rather than later, but we need to have a solid lineup of releases and this will again have to do mainly with the main territories led by New York." The CEO said he's flexible as long as studios have a clear plan and not leave the cinemas hanging. Greidinger notes the cyclical relationship between cinemas and studios. When Deadline asked the hypothetical if Warner Bros. decides to stick to Wonder Woman 1984's planned release of Christmas 2020, Greidinger doubled down.
"For sure, but we need to have a clear lineup of movies after that," he said. "It cannot be one movie only. It needs to be a situation that the studios are saying, 'It is safe enough to go back and this is our release schedule.' The COVID situation needs to stabilize and we need to have a clear schedule of movies ahead." To read more about related business decisions, you can check the rest of the interview on Deadline.