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Movie theaters face uncertainty as pandemic continues

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Posted at 2:46 PM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 12:57:21-05

NORFOLK, Va - The movie theater industry continues to face uncertainty as the pandemic continues.

Regal has kept its theaters closed since October, and their theater at Town Center in Virginia Beach is now permanently closed.

AMC remains open, but there are seating limits. People can also now have private movie screenings at their theaters.

In another tough break for the industry, Warner Brothers announced its 2021 slate of movies will be available for streaming on HBO Max in addition to movie theaters screenings.

"I think the movie theater industry has been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures," said Dr. Robert McNab, an economist at Old Dominion University.

McNab predicts the industry won't recover until many people receive vaccines, likely not until the middle of 2021. "I don't think we're at the end of the movie experience, but we're going to see changes in the movie theater industry," he said. "Those chains that create an experience - that have upscale entertainment options; that provide customers with food, a very comfortable lounge chair, great sound and a community experience - will probably survive and come out stronger."

Smaller theaters have had to make adjustments as well. The Naro in Ghent is now letting people rent their theater to watch a movie, something they say is particularly popular during the holiday season.

Related: Historic Norfolk theater creates virtual cinema to keep movies playing, cash flowing

"When you're at a theater, you've got nothing to look at but the light on the screen," said Thom Vourlas, a co-owner. "People still cherish that, and hopefully when this thing ends, they'll continue to cherish it."

They say they've gotten 10-15 bookings for December at $390 per two-hour movie. Groups can include up to 25 people. "That will definitely help keep us alive a little in longer," said Vourlas. "I'm feeling hopeful. I am optimistic we will return."

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