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San Diego movie theaters both hurting and thriving during pandemic

Posted at 4:45 PM, Oct 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-04 23:23:14-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — As hundreds of Regal Cinemas in the United States face the potential for closure, other movie businesses are thriving.

Cineworld, the parent company for Regal Cinemas, tweeted Sunday, saying “We can confirm we are considering the temporary closure of our U.K. and US cinemas, but a final decision has not yet been reached. Once a decision has been made we will update all staff and customers as soon as we can.”

Conversely, a locally owned San Diego theater is thriving during this time. Douglas Yeagley owns Cinema Under the Stars, a small, outdoor Mission Hills movie theater. The business is in its 29th year and has always been outside, a key factor in keeping them afloat during the pandemic.

RELATED: Regal Cinemas reportedly preparing to close all U.S. theaters, including eight in San Diego

“People are honestly kind of starving for some kind of safe entertainment. You can’t do live music, you can’t do anything like that, you have to be in your car or something like that to see a performance of some nature, so this particular works well because you are super safe here, open-air,” said Yeagley.

He said they’ve had to change a few aspects of business, including cutting seats from 62 to 42 per showing, spacing seats out for social distancing, cleaning seats twice between each showing, and also requiring face masks when standing. Even with the changes, they sell out most nights.

Yeagley said he’s been to a few indoor movies since the pandemic and noticed the lack of others inside the theater, noting that there are a few key factors keeping people away from the indoor movie setting. The indoor location is a large factor, but also the delay of the release of major pictures is keeping people away.

“There’s got to be a reason to come to that movie and you have to have an interest in that movie,” he said.

The announcement from Regal Cinemas comes shortly after the announcement that the release of the latest Bond film would be delayed from November of 2020 to April of 2021 and the filming of many major pictures is delayed.

In San Diego County, indoor movie theaters are able to operate at either 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. While the indoor movie industry is taking a hit right now, Yeagley said he expects it to bounce back eventually, however it will take time and could look different once it recuperates.

“I think so because people like to escape and that’s what you do in a movie. You quit thinking about it, are present for two hours, focused on something. That’s enjoyable. I can’t imagine people not wanting that.”