EXCLUSIVE: Before Hurricane Dorian reaches landfall sometime tonight, some theaters on the central east coasts of Florida have already boarded up including a slew of AMC, Regal and Cinemark multiplexes.
Most of these sites aren’t expected to re-open until Tuesday and Wednesday, in time for New Line’s It: Chapter Two which starts previews on Thursday night.
Weather Channel reports that hurricane and storm surge warnings have already been issued for parts of Florida’s East Coast. Tropical storm winds at 39 mph are expected, eventually building to 74 mph-plus tonight. How strong the winds are depends on how close the center of Dorian is to the Florida coast. Battering waves, coastal flooding and beach erosion are expected along the southeastern coast of Florida.
Cinemark closed theaters in Boca Raton, Boynton and Davie last night at 8PM. Regal counts at least 13 sites that are shuttered including such mega-plexes as the Royal Palm Beach 18, and the Sawgrass Stadium 23 in Sunrise, South Beach 18 in Miami. AMC has closed ten locations including venues in Pompano Beach, the Cityplace 20 in West Palm Beach, and the Indian River 24 in Vero Beach. AMC even plans to close its Myrtle Beach 12 as far north as South Carolina today in anticipation of Dorian.
As widespread as theater closings can be during a Florida Hurricane, distribution sources say it only has a negative low single digit percent toll on the week’s box office. An East Coast deep freeze like January 2016’s Storm Jonas, which shut theaters from Charlotte, North Carolina to New York City, had more of a negative financial impact on the weekend box office, with overall ticket sales over the Jan. 22-24 period taking a -32% hit from the previous weekend. The Labor Day weekend box office, which didn’t serve up any wide entries by the major studios, rang up $113.6M per Comscore this morning, -13% from the 4-day holiday last year, but +18% from 2017 Labor Day, the last time the majors sat on the sidelines before It opened.
In the wake of Hurricane Irma in 2017, Regal’s Hollywood 20 in Naples, Florida sustained damage and the chain’s new owner Cineworld gave the 23-year old multiplex a gorgeous 21st Century upgrade with a digital poster-clad lobby and cushy leather recliner seats. In the summer of 2011, AMC’s Vestal Town Square in Binghamtown, NY closed due to flooding and was reopened at the end of the year, receiving a full recliner renovation.
Though Dorian is now a category 4, the storm has ravaged the Bahamas, and at 185 mph is the strongest hurricane to hit the islands. Rain continues to fall in northwestern Bahamas where 12-24 inches of rain are expected with isolated amounts at 30 inches.
Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis tweeted Monday, “Grand Bahama is still feeling the impact of the Category 5 #HuricaneDorian. Based on reports out of Abaco, the devastation is unprecedented. Winds have decreased to 165MPH but Dorian remains an extremely dangerous storm. Our focus right now is rescue, recovery and prayer.”