Regal Cinemas close all U.S. theaters, future for moviegoers uncertain

Could going to the movie theater be a thing of the past?

That’s what many people are asking after one of the biggest movie theater chains announced it's temporarily closing all of its locations in the United States and Britain.

The owner of Regal Cinemas, Cineworld Group, had re-opened some theaters in parts of the country, but without a pipeline of new movies coming out just could not make it work during a pandemic.

It's emotional because for many moviegoers we grew up going to the movies. The movie theater was a place to go on dates. A place to be seen on weekend nights and create lasting memories.

But an industry that was already struggling has been further decimated by the pandemic. Leaving some wondering if we’ll ever be able to go to the big screen again.  

Alejandro Gonzalez, a retired engineer from Bellevue has seen over a hundred movies at the Regal Crossroads over the last 30-plus years.

“It is sad, completely sad," Gonzalez said. "The memories. Your first date perhaps. When you went with your little girlfriend to a movie theater when you were 15 or 16 (years old). That is not happening anymore. So our grandkids are going to experience something else.”

For generations, going to the movies offered the ultimate entertainment. But now, new releases come right to our homes via streaming services. And due to the pandemic, few want to watch with others.

COVID-19 also delayed big releases like the latest James Bond movie "No Time To Die." That in turn killed the ability to attract audiences big enough to keep the doors open.

So more than 7,000 Regal screens will dark this Thursday,  as 536 locations in the U.S. will temporarily close, just months after many started to reopen. 

The temporary closure also means more people out of work. Regal Cinemas reportedly said, roughly 40,000 employees in the U.S. face being furloughed. 

They aren't the only ones being hurt financially.

Kuang Lin is about to open an organic juice bar at the end of this month just feet away from the Regal Crossroads in Bellevue,  and what he hoped would have been hundreds of thirsty customers every night.

“But now, that’s not good news," Lin said. "Nothing you can do.”

Many now clinging to the memories of what it felt like to watch a movie on the big screen while wondering if we'll ever be able to do it again.