Regal Cinemas to Temporarily Close All Locations Due to Pandemic, Affecting 40,000 Employees
"This is not a decision we made lightly," said the CEO of Cineworld, Regal's parent company, about the closure, which starts Thursday
Regal Cinemas — the second-biggest movie theater chain in the country — is temporarily suspending operations as the film industry continues to grapple with the pandemic.
On Monday, Cineworld, the U.K. parent company of Regal, announced that it will temporarily shut down all of its 536 Regal movie theater locations in the United States, effective this Thursday, Oct. 8.
The business move was made after a number of high-profile blockbusters had their release dates postponed or switched to a digital rollout amid the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Christopher Nolan's Tenet also underperformed at the box office after debuting at select cinemas that are open.
"This is not a decision we made lightly," said Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Cineworld, in a press release, "and we did everything in our power to support a safe and sustainable reopening in the U.S. — from putting in place robust health and safety measures at our theatres to joining our industry in making a collective commitment to the CinemaSafe protocols to reaching out to state and local officials to educate them on these initiatives."
"We are especially grateful for and proud of the hard work our employees put in to adapt our theatres to the new protocols and cannot underscore enough how difficult this decision was," Greidinger added.
The closures will affect nearly 40,000 U.S. employees who work for Regal, which is the second-largest movie theater chain behind AMC Theaters.
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories
Greidinger explained that as some of its major markets still haven't reopened moviegoing, including New York, the company struggled to make it work. Last week, upcoming movies like the James Bond entry No Time To Die and Fast and the Furious' ninth installment rescheduled their theatrical releases to 2021.
"Despite our work, positive feedback from our customers and the fact that there has been no evidence to date linking any COVID cases with cinemas, we have not been given a route to reopen in New York, although other indoor activities — like indoor dining, bowling and casinos were already allowed," said Greidinger.
"The prolonged closures have had a detrimental impact on the release slate for the rest of the year, and, in turn, our ability to supply our customers with the lineup of blockbusters they've come to expect from us," Greidinger continued. "As such, it is simply impossible to continue operations in our primary markets."
Earlier this year, during the start of the outbreak, movie theaters across the country were forced to close in an effort to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Big chains, including AMC and Regal, reopened in many areas months later, though they now enforce new guidelines regarding social distancing and operate with reduced capacity.
But efforts to get people back into theaters to watch movies have not been going well, and Hollywood studios have continued to push back the releases of some of its biggest films as a result.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.