Brock Bagby, Executive Vice President of B&B Theaters, alongside his father, Bob Bagby, the CEO.
B & B theater
B&B Theaters, the sixth largest cinema chain in the United States, has been in operation for nearly 100 years. The owners are now saying that there are still months until bankruptcy protection is filed.
The family business has 48 theaters in eight states and had to close all of these locations in March Coronavirus pandemic. A handful of the company’s theaters reopened to the public in June, but the majority didn’t open until August.
During this time, B&B Theaters was unable to pay the full rent and had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars repairing its projectors because the machines had not been used for so long. With Hollywood delaying the release of big blockbusters until next year, Brock Bagby, executive vice president at B&B Theaters, said there was little hope that business could continue.
“We’ll probably be gone for a couple of months if nothing changes,” he said. “If we run the course we’re running now, we’ll probably be gone for a few months. It’s bad.”
Bagby is part of the fourth generation of his family who run the theater chain. His father, Bob Bagby, is the CEO and his siblings, Bobbie Bagby Ford and Brittanie Bagby Baker, are also executive vice president.
Brock Bagby has worked with the National Association of Theater Owners, as well as competing theater chains, to provide theater facilities. He said his sister, Bobbie, who oversees the company’s marketing, made hundreds of calls to government officials asking for financial aid.
“The government has closed us so we hope they will help us,” said Bagby. “I mean, we didn’t shut down. And that’s the thing that’s so hard, and I keep telling my dad, ‘You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not your fault.’ But it doesn’t help. It’s still devastating. “
According to NATO, around 93% of cinema companies reported a drop in sales of around 75% compared to the previous year in the second quarter. If that trend continues, the organization, which represents more than 33,000 screens in 50 states, said 69% of small and medium-sized cinema companies would be forced to file for bankruptcy or close permanently.
“The dire reality is that many cinemas cannot reopen if they do not receive government aid,” Esther Baruh, director of government relations at NATO, said in a statement. “This is as urgent as it can get. The exhibition industry developed well before this pandemic and it will be fine again, but theaters and their employees need a bridge to get to this point.”
Bagby said his company lost millions this year and the only hope for B&B Theaters is new content.
In the wake of weak ticket sales in September“Wonder Woman 1984” has been postponed to Christmas from its October release date, and “Black Widow” and “No Time to Die” have been postponed to 2021.
The theater calendar got even emptier this week Cineworld, the second largest theater chain in the world, has closed all locations in the US and UK, including more than 500 domestic bookshelf theaters.
“Dune,” which was due out in December, was postponed until next year after the Cineworld news announced. Warner bros. also delayed his new “Matrix” and “The Batman”. “Black Adam” no longer has an official release date.
Now there are only four big films left on the program for the rest of the year: Universal The Croods: A New Age, 20th Century Free Guy, Coming 2 America by Paramount Pictures and Wonder Woman 1984. And even the release dates of these films could change.
Interior of a B&B theater.
B & B theater
Cinema operators fear that The studios will continue to hold back blockbusters until populous states like California and New York reopen more theaters. According to Comscore, the two states together account for 21.5% of total US box office revenue each year. The states are also helping to build excitement for movies as both are hubs for the entertainment industry.
California has eased restrictions on cinemas, but only around 139 of the state’s 500+ theaters are open. New York’s policies against reopening theaters are still decided. As of last weekend, only two of the nearly 300 locations in New York were open.
“New York State has been following the data and the latest science on the virus to safely reopen our economy, and we are doing the same when it comes to cinemas,” said Jack Sterne, a government spokesman for Governor Andrew Cuomo Explanation.
“Cinemas and similar activities across the state will remain closed because of the challenge of having customers sit in an enclosed space for long periods of time and requiring activities such as eating and drinking that involve removing a mask,” he said. “In New York, we will continue to monitor the data and science and make a decision to reopen it here when health professionals determine it is safe to do so.”
The Cuomo government did not respond to CNBC’s request for additional information on how data would be tracked and what would have to happen for the state to allow cinemas to reopen.
Nearly 400 theater companies, including B&B Theaters, have adopted a new program called CinemaSafe, which was developed with the help of NATO and epidemiologists to make going to the cinema as safe as possible during the pandemic.
The program includes mandatory masks, social distancing, staggered playing times and seating, and increased disinfection of auditoriums, concession areas and toilets. In addition, some of these cinema companies have invested a lot of money in new HVAC systems.
“Governor Cuomo seems in no rush to reopen theaters in the New York metropolitan area, especially as there are no specific metrics that would allow operators to move forward,” said Eric Handler, executive director of media and entertainment capital research at MKM Partners, wrote in a research report released Friday.
Both Bagby and Mooky Greidinger, the CEO of Cineworld, told CNBC that the studios have told theaters they won’t be releasing big blockbusters until theaters are allowed to reopen in New York. For this reason, Bagby is closely monitoring the reopening in New York, even though he does not operate a theater there.
For Greidinger’s company, the closure of locations was one way of containing the “bleeding”. He said his business lost less money when it wasn’t operating.
However, Bagby’s company found that it would lose more money to the formwork and be even more financially affected if it had to go through the reopening process.
“We’ve been around 96 years and we’ve never seen anything like it,” said Bagby. “I’m sure my grandparents are rolling around in their graves.”
Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of Universal Studios and CNBC.