As San Francisco Targets Mid-August Reopening For Theaters, Wall Streeter Sees Second-Half Release Schedule “In Flux”

San Francisco yesterday became the first major box office city to give a specific opening date for theaters, mid-August, which is after planned release dates of the first big summer films, Tenet and Mulan, in mid and late-July respectively and the late June-July target anticipated by the biggest chains like AMC Entertainment and Regal.

AMC has said it will only reopen if there are movies to show.

It’s possible that theaters could still open with Tenet showing in Los Angeles and around the world, industry players have told Deadline.

The exhibition target was part of San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s announcement of a tentative schedule that provides a guideline for the reopening of San Francisco’s various business categories. Movie theaters are part of a ‘Phase 3,’ although B. Riley FBR analyst Eric Wold, who covers the sector closely, noted that the target date of mid-August could push be extended given “the possibility of multiple sub-phases.”

In a report Friday morning, he said San Francisco represents the first of the three major box office cities (after New York and Los Angeles) to actually provide somewhat of a specific date for the movie theater re-openings. He said he doesn’t think San Francisco alone would derail July release plans — but it does raise a flag.

“While we understand that all of the exhibitors have shored up their balance sheets in recent weeks to provide additional liquidity, given the continued uncertainties around reopening timelines, capacity restrictions and movie-goer responses, we remain cautious on the pure-play exhibitors under coverage,” he said.

Wold’s main points:

San Francisco reopening timeline is after first two key movies

As had been a concern since studios began moving scheduled release dates back in March, the first major box office market to establish a reopening timeline did so after the first two key movies. Currently, Tenet from Warner Bros. and Mulan from Disney are still scheduled for 7/17 and 7/24, respectively (although the latest Tenet trailers released over the past week did not include a release date at the end). Tenet has maintained its original release date the entire time with Disney moving Mulan from its original release date in late March.

Timeline probably does not bode well for New York or Los Angeles

Each of the three major cities (and both states) are working on their own individual timelines, but the later-than-anticipated opening timeline for San Francisco probably does not bode well for the other two. “While we do not believe San Francisco on its own would be enough to influence the studios’ decisions, we would expect that all three cities would have a major influence. At this point, movie theaters are included in Stage 3 in Los Angeles with an unknown timeline, but with Governor Gavin Newsom stating in late April that movie theaters were ‘months, not weeks’ away.”

 

In New York, movie theaters are included in a Phase 4, along with Broadway. “While there has not been any significant film release timing shifts in recent weeks around the July/August calendar, we believe the 2H20 calendar should still be considered in flux. We assume studios are closely watching for any adverse changes in major market reopening time frames and/or movie-goer demand levels in early reopening states (which have been poor according to early reports—with the caveat theaters are showing library titles). We may be in a situation where no studio wants to be first out of the gate even if they have a lack of competition—because an unsuccessful theatrical release would be more painful to the bottom line than delaying the release date before any major marketing spend has occurred.”

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