Some area movie theaters have temporarily gone dark due to the coronavirus pandemic, but others are playing a “wait and see” game.
Regal, the company that operates Joplin’s Northstar 14, has closed all 549 theaters across 42 states until further notice. The closures were a “precaution amid the current circumstances,” according to a company release. Regal owns and operates 22 theaters in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Following guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that people avoid gatherings of 10 or more, AMC Theatres also has closed its 630 U.S. locations for at least six to 12 weeks. AMC is the largest movie chain in the country, and it owns and operates the Pittsburg 8 theater in Pittsburg, Kansas.
“We are ever so disappointed for our moviegoing guests and for our employee teams that the new CDC guidelines that Americans should not gather in groups larger than 10 people make it impossible to open our theaters," AMC CEO Adam Aron said in a statement. "Still, the health and well-being of AMC guests and employees, and of all Americans, takes precedence above all else.”
The Plaza in downtown Lamar will shut its doors temporarily, said Scott Kelley, who manages both the theater and the town’s Barco Drive-In. He hopes the theater will reopen sometime in April.
Not all corporate-owned theaters are shutting down. Most cinemas in the B&B Theatres chain will remain open, although a few in the Kansas City area were closed Tuesday, said Paul Farnsworth, B&B’s director of public relations.
“Naturally, this is an evolving situation,” he said. “We are adapting as information and regulation are made available to us. ...We plan to keep our locations open as long as possible as we stay in constant contact with local, state and federal authorities and agencies.”
As of Tuesday, the B&B-owned theater in Neosho will remain open, while renovation work to the B&B-owned theater in Miami, Oklahoma, will continue as new leather reclining seats are installed there, he said.
“We have taken aggressive steps to continue to provide clean, safe and accessible facilities,” including reduced maximum capacities, social distancing, heightened cleaning routines and protocols and new employee messaging, Farnsworth said.
The Webb City-based Route 66 Theater has been temporarily closed — not because of the pandemic, but due to renovations. Co-owner Scott Hutson hopes to have the 315-seat theater open later this month.
Joplin’s independent movie theater, Bookhouse Cinema, 715 E. Broadway St., will remain open to the public, according to owner Holly Crane. It seats fewer than 50 people.
“If the request became a mandate (to shut down), we would likely conclude that it would be best to close temporarily,” she said Monday. “We do want our patrons to be cautious of coming to the cinema if their health is compromised or they have been unwell. I hope that most people have determined the risks on their own.”