AMC offers private theater rentals starting at $99, as cinemas continue to struggle

Like countless other sectors of the entertainment industry, movie theaters have been devastated by a global pandemic with seemingly no end in sight. Initial closings stretched on for months, as distributors have delayed their biggest films, or simply cut out the middle man by skipping straight to video-on-demand services.

Even as theaters have begun to reopen in some states, actually getting moviegoers back in seats is far easier said than done as fears over catching the highly contagious virus persist. From pop-up drive-ins to popcorn delivery services, some clever individuals have looked toward ways to stay afloat during a prolonged lockdown. A number of locations have also begun offering private theater rentals — a transitional approach that offers movie fans an opportunity to return to the movie-going experience without being surrounded by strangers.

As CNN notes, mega-chain AMC has begun to offer the option through its site, with prices for renting out a theater starting at a surprisingly reasonable $99 (though not in New York, Alaska and Hawaii). Split among ten friends, and you’re already paying less than a normal movie ticket.

Attendees can invite as many as 20 people to a screening, which consists of classic titles like Jurassic Park and Halloween-centric fare like The Nightmare Before Christmas. Prices go up from there. New titles like Tenet and The New Mutants, cost up to $349 for a single screening. The former, helmed by blockbuster director Christopher Nolan, was set to be a kind of litmus test for moviegoers’ willingness to return to theaters.

After months of delays, however, Warner Bros. took the relatively rare step of releasing the film internationally first, as the U.S. has continued to struggle with the spread of COVID-19. The United States on-going struggles have also recently allowed China to overtake the country as the world’s largest box office. Over the summer, AMC noted that it had “substantial doubt” it would be able to withstand the pandemic.

#amc, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #entertainment, #movie-theaters

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Review: NOS4A2’s second season is a satisfying, genuinely scary horror story

A young mother must overcome her personal demons to save her son from a psychic vampire in the second season of horror drama NOS4A2 (pronounced “Nosferatu”), an adaptation of the 2013 novel of the same name by Joe Hill. (Hill is having a banner year between this and the successful Netflix adaptation of Locke and Key). While the otherwise compelling first season dragged in places—mostly when it was weighed down a bit by the need to build out the fictional world—S2 wastes no time kicking off the action. NOS4A2 rarely lets up over its newest ten episodes.

(Spoilers for S1 below. Mostly mild spoilers for S2 until after the final gallery. We’ll give you a heads up when we get there.)

As we’ve reported previously, the novel is about a woman named Vic McQueen with a gift for finding lost things. She’s one of a rare group of people known as “strong creatives,” capable of tearing through the fabric that separates the physical world from the world of thought and imagination (their personal “inscapes”) with the help of a talisman-like object dubbed a “knife.” For Vic, her knife is her motorcycle; for a troubled young woman named Maggie, it’s a bag of Scrabble tiles. And for psychic “vampire”/child abductor Charlie Manx, it’s a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith, which seems to have a mind of its own.

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#amc, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #joe-hill, #nos4a2, #television, #television-review

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AMC will offer 15 cent tickets when it reopens 100+ US theaters on August 20

Like so many industries, the last five months have been absolutely devastating for movie theaters. As far as sheer volumes go, no one has been harder hit than the world’s largest theater chain. AMC has had plans to reopen theaters for some time — but things change, particularly when you’re dealing with something as uncertain and always-evolving as a global pandemic.

This week, the theater juggernaut announced plans to reopen more than 100 theaters in the U.S. on August 20, constituting a first wave of re-openings. In an attempt to entice understandably cautious customers to return, it will be offering all tickets for $0.15 for one day only (with a limited quantity as it enforces social distancing measures). The number is a momentary return to 1920 ticket prices, as an homage to the chains founding.

Things are still…tricky, of course. Among the bigger issues here is the current lack of new releases to choose from. It’s one of those chicken and egg deals. Movie studios have been equally eager to release films, but haven’t had much luck as local regulations have kept theaters close. After numerous delays, Warner Bros. announced that it will be taking the unusual measure of premiering Christopher Nolan’s Tenet outside of the U.S. before it comes to the States. More than anything, it’s a clear indication of this country’s handling of the COVID-19.

With movies like Tenet and The New Mutants waiting in the wings, AMC will be relying on older blockbusters to try to get butts back in seats. Upcoming films include The Empire Strikes Back, Black Panther, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters and Grease. Those will be priced at $5 a pop, designed to lure folks who can’t wait to return the theater experience, new releases or no.

AMC, of course, was the subject of controversy when it announced that masks would be voluntary for moviegoers, a stance it quickly retracted after intense online backlash. The release noting the reopening includes a laundry list of sanitation and safety measures,

AMC Safe & Clean components include significant reductions in the maximum tickets available for each showtime and seat blocking in reserved seating auditoriums to allow for appropriate social distancing between parties, enhanced cleaning procedures that include extra time between showtimes to allow for a full, thorough cleaning and nightly disinfecting utilizing electrostatic sprayers, use of high tech HEPA vacuums, upgraded air filtration efforts including the use of MERV 13 filters wherever possible, new guest and associate safety protocols that include mandatory mask wearing by all guests and associates, hand sanitizing stations throughout the theatre, and the availability to guests of disinfectant wipes.

The list of theaters can be found here. It’s limited to a handful of cities and states, skipping key markets like California and New York, likely due to local COVID safety restrictions.

#amc, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #entertainment, #movie-theaters, #theaters

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Masks will be optional when the largest movie theater chain reopens in the US July 15

Less than a month out, AMC has finally put a firm date on its plans to reopen theaters across the U.S. The chain will resume service for 450 of its 600+ locations on July 15, lining up with its earlier promises of mid-July. Movie goers are no doubt a bit hesitate to return to theaters for reasons Anthony and I have already outlined, and new comments from CEO Adam Aron aren’t exactly bolstering confidence.

In an interview with Variety, the chief exec noted that theaters would not require guests to wear masks. He justified the decision — or, perhaps, indecision — with the odd claim that mask requirements were inherently political.

“We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” he told the outlet. “We thought it might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on those people who believe strongly that it is not necessary. We think that the vast majority of AMC guests will be wearing masks. When I go to an AMC feature, I will certainly be wearing a mask and leading by example.”

AMC joins fellow chains Cinemark and Regal in the decision, though all will have to require moviegoers to wear them in states like California where masks are mandatory in most indoor areas. How strictly such requirements will be enforced in theaters remains to be seen, though AMC says it’s requiring all employees to do so and will sell masks to attendees for $1 a piece.

Employees will also undergo temperature checks, but guests will not. Such screenings are largely seen as an important safeguard in the spread of COVID-19, though they’re ineffective for asymptomatic carriers. Other safeguards include electrostatic sprayers, HEPA vacuums and other technologies deployed to stop the virus’s spread.

As for what will be playing, many studios have already bumped major releases back to 2021. Though a handful of titles, including Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Disney’s Mulan are due out in the coming months.

#amc, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #entertainment, #movies

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Theaters are ready to reopen, but is America ready to go back to the movies?

Last week, AMC marked its earnings report with a somber note. The movie theater giant warned of losses reaching up to $2.4 billion, courtesy of COVID-19-related closures, adding that “substantial doubt exists about our ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time.”

AMC isn’t alone. The pandemic has had a devastating impact on theaters that rely on in-person foot traffic for the vast majority of their income. And as they’ve waited to reopen, some theaters have marked the time with mournful marquees and virtual screenings.

Now, as America begins the slow, deliberate process of reopening, movie theaters have outlined their own plans to return to normal. But it seems clear that like so many other industries, the theatrical movie business remains very uncertain.

The process will come in stages and take into account guidance from bodies like the CDC and state and local officials, as the indoor, close-quartered setups are particularly susceptible to potential transmission of the highly contagious novel coronavirus.

It’s clear that theater owners and industry shareholders are eager to start working again, but a much larger and more important question remains: Are Americans ready to return to theaters? After months of hearing about the risks of transmission, coupled with the virus’s harrowing symptoms, the cost-benefit analysis is a difficult one for movie fans who consider the theater experience a simple and essential life pleasure.

Along with the theaters’ own precautions, states will be implementing additional restrictions. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom issued guidelines under which theaters can reopen starting on June 12. Those guidelines include allowing 25% of theater capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees per theater — whichever is lower. Theater owners should:

Reconfigure, close, or otherwise remove seats from use to ensure physical distancing of at least six feet between attendees. This may require seating every other row or blocking off or removing seats in a “checkerboard” style (use each row but make sure no one is directly behind other patrons) so that distances are maintained in all directions. Members of the same household may be seated together but should maintain at least six feet of distance from other households.

Face coverings will be mandatory and theaters are encouraged to use disposable seat covers. Public water fountains will be turned off, doors should be propped open and the flow of traffic needs to be established. It’s not exactly a carefree film-going experience, but precautions should be welcomed.

It’s been nearly three months since AMC closed all of its locations. In July, the country’s largest theater chain plans to reopen “almost all” of its U.S. and U.K. locations, information that marked a rare bit of positive news for the company’s stock, which jumped 14% last Wednesday. AMC CEO Adam Aron said the chain plans to reopen 97-98% of its theaters by the middle of next month, though he added that the company’s plans are “fluid” — a fair assessment, given the ever-changing nature of our knowledge about COVID-19. (For one thing, New York City —  the country’s second-largest movie market — does not yet have a date for reopening theaters.)

Similarly, Cinemark says that it plans to reopen its theaters across the U.S. in four phraseswith the first phase starting on June 19. And the National Association of Theatre Owners — an industry trade organization — put global theater reopening at between 90 and 95%, globally during the same time frame.

The timing isn’t accidental. Christopher Nolan’s upcoming “Tenet” is set for a July 17 release. The Warner Bros. film, with a reported budget of more than $200 million, will serve as something of a trial balloon, to determine whether the benefits outweigh the risks for cautious film fans.

Other studios have begun announcing plans to reenter the market as well, including Sony/TriStar’s Selena Gomez vehicle, “The Broken Hearts Gallery,” which is slated for a July 1 release — an extremely optimistic gamble for the studios. But given Nolan’s blockbuster track record, and his devotion to the theatrical experience, “Tenet” is largely regarded as the true bellwether for the industry, followed by Disney’s delayed release of “Mulan” on July 30.

The pandemic prompted studios to launch theatrical films like Pixar’s “Onward” to VOD and streaming services much more quickly than usual, as well as circumventing theaters entirely for releases like “The Lovebirds” and “Artemis Fowl.” For the most part, studios have treated this as a temporary strategy, but NBCUniversal has been particularly bullish about the VOD success of “Trolls World Tour,” leading to tension with theater owners.

Can a big-budget Hollywood film make a profit if theaters are operating at reduced capacity? Analysts have suggested that it might work, since theaters were rarely at full capacity before the pandemic (particularly on weekdays). And with no other big releases to compete with during their initial weeks of releases, “Tenet” and “Mulan” will be able to run on many more screens than normal.

But that’s assuming moviegoers will come out, while many are wondering whether the pandemic represents the beginning of a new normal for an industry already struggling to cope with shifting consumer desires.

For example, a new study from Performance Research and Full Circle Research Co. points to a population that isn’t exactly rushing to get their butts back into seats. Seventy percent of respondents said they would rather watch a movie at home versus the theater if both options were available now. Compare that to 13% who chose the theater option. Naturally, things will likely shift in one direction over the course of the next month, and year, but such figures are — at least — troubling for theater chains.

Similarly, we conducted an extremely non-scientific Twitter poll, asking readings when they would consider seeing a movie in theaters. Of the 2,445 people who have responded to the still ongoing poll as of press time, 41% said they would wait for a COVID-19 vaccine, 23% plan to wait for next year and 20% and 15.3% chose this summer and fall/winter, respectively. It’s not a precise metric by any measure, but it does speak to a public set to approach such activities with an abundance of caution.

The entire industry will be watching the performance of films like “Tenet” closely. If those early trial balloons fail to fly, it will spell more difficult times ahead for Hollywood.

 

#amc, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #entertainment, #media, #movie-theaters, #movies

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Amazon Prime Video to globally premiere 7 Indian movies as theaters remain closed

Amazon has secured rights to premiere seven Indian movies that were initially scheduled for a theatrical release directly on its Prime Video on-demand streaming service in a move that has prompted two major movie theater chains to express “extreme displeasure” and “disappointment.”

The e-commerce giant, which is reportedly in talks to buy AMC theater chain, said on Friday that it will release these movies, which include “Gulabo Sitabo” starring Indian legend Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana, and “Shakuntala Devi” featuring Vidya Balan as lead, over the next three months starting with May.

Prime Video subscribers won’t have to pay an additional fee to access these movies, which span five Indian languages, the company said. Other “highly anticipated” titles are Tamil drama “Ponmagal Vandhal”, “Penguin” (Tamil and Telugu), “Law” (Kannada), “French Biryani” (Kannada), and “Sufiyum Sujatayum” (Malayalam).

The move comes as India maintains a nationwide lockdown that has left more than 9,500 theaters and other public places shut.

PVR and INOX, two large theater chains in India that together run about 1,500 screens in the country, said they were alarmed and concerned by the move.

“Such acts, though isolated, vitiate the atmosphere of mutual partnership and paint these content producers as fair-weather friends rather than all-weather life-long partners. Needless to say, INOX will be constrained to examine its options, and reserves all rights, including taking retributive measures, in dealing with such fair-weather friends,” said INOX in a statement.

Amazon, which began selling movie tickets in India last year, has been attempting to challenge, in INOX’s words, “age old, windowing-pattern.” In the last one and a half year, the shopping giant has struck deals with movie studios to narrow the window for a movie’s theatrical release to its debut on a streaming service to a few weeks, down from two to three months in India.

INOX and PVR are not alone. Last month, AMC Theaters said it will no longer screen films made by Universal Pictures, which released “Trolls World Tour” directly to streaming.

Amazon, which bundles Prime Video in its $13-a-year Prime subscription plan in India, said it is providing these movies a platform that reaches 4,000 towns and cities in more than 200 countries and territories. The company has not disclosed how many Prime Video subscribers it has amassed in India, or elsewhere. Amazon Prime Video competes with Disney’s Hotstar, Netflix, and more than three dozen other services in India.

Gaurav Gandhi, Director and Country General Manager of Amazon Prime Video India, said in a statement that “Indian audiences have been eagerly awaiting the release of these 7 highly anticipated films and we are delighted that Amazon Prime Video will now be premiering these movies for our customers – who can enjoy watching these from the safety and comfort of their homes and on a screen of their choice.”

It appears that Amazon hasn’t had to spend a ton to acquire rights for these titles. In an interview with Huffington Post India, Ronnie Lahiri, co-producer of “Gulabo Sitabo” said “it wasn’t like we got insane money from Amazon” though he called the deal a “win-win.”

“We’re facing a once-in-a-lifetime phenomena, not seen since World War 2. These are the times when things change. Initially, people have apprehensions but one has to adapt. That’s how human civilisations have prospered. The minute we stop adapting, we’re done. Instead of waiting for the situation to get better, you tackle it with other alternatives,” he said.

#amazon, #amazon-prime, #amc, #amc-theatres, #asia, #media, #prime-video, #pvr

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Quiz miniseries revisits notorious 2001 game-show cheating scandal

The new miniseries Quiz was a ratings hit when it debuted in the UK in April. Now it’s coming to AMC.

It all started with a well-timed cough. In 2001, a former British army major, Charles Ingram, was a contestant on the wildly popular game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Ingram unexpectedly won the £1,000,000 jackpot but was subsequently tried and convicted for cheating, along with his wife and another accomplice. Now the Ingram story is coming to AMC in the new miniseries Quiz, adapted from the 2017 play of the same name by James Graham.

Michael Sheen (Good Omens) lights up the trailer as game-show host Chris Tarrant, so small wonder the miniseries proved to be ratings gold when it premiered last month in the UK. Directed by Stephen Frears (A Very English Scandal), the three-part TV adaptation also stars Matthew Macfadyen (Succession) and Sian Clifford (Fleabag) as Charles and his wife Diana Ingram. Michael Jibson (1917) plays the Ingrams’ accomplice, Tecwen Whittock, while Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders) plays Sonia Woodley, the Ingrams’ criminal defense barrister.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was among the most popular shows in the UK in 1999, and Ingram’s wife and her brother had both been contestants on the show when Charles decided to follow suit. Producers didn’t expect him to proceed beyond the second day of taping—his performance was fairly erratic—but instead he won the top prize. Tarrant didn’t suspect anything was wrong as he celebrated with the Ingrams in their dressing room after the show. But production staff became convinced that Ingram had cheated after reviewing the tapes. Diana and Whittock kept coughing noticeably right as Tarrant read the correct answer.

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#amc, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #television, #trailers

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Zachary Quinto’s child-snatching psychic vampire is back in NOS4A2 S2

Ashleigh Cummings and Zachary Quinto return as Vic McQueen and Charlie Manx, respectively, in the second season of AMC’s NOS4A2, adapted from the Joe Hill novel.

AMC’s NOS4A2 flew under the radar for many viewers last summer, struggling to compete in a crowded seasonal market for film and television. That’s too bad, because it’s a great show. In my review last year, I called it a “haunting fable” that is “as much a depiction of the potentially destructive nature of artistic gifts as it is about the tragedy of dreams deferred—just all draped in supernatural trappings.” The first trailer for S2 has dropped in the middle of a global pandemic, and with less competition, hopefully more people will discover this gem.

(Some spoilers for book and S1 below.)

The series is an adaptation of the 2013 award-winning horror novel of the same name by Joe Hill. It’s about a woman named Vic McQueen with a gift for finding lost things. She’s one of a rare group of people known as “strong creatives,” capable of tearing through the fabric that separates the physical world from the world of thought and imagination (their personal “inscapes”) with the help of a talisman-like object dubbed a “knife.” For Vic, her knife is her motorcycle (a bicycle when she’s younger); for a troubled young woman named Maggie, it’s a bag of Scrabble tiles. And for psychic “vampire”/child abductor Charlie Manx, it’s a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith.

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#amc, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #joe-hill, #nos4a2, #television, #trailers

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AMC will close all US theaters for six to 12 weeks

AMC this morning formally announced that it will close all locations in the United States for between six to 12 weeks, beginning today. The move comes on the heels of a partial shutdown by the largest theater chain in the U.S. last week and a similar announcement for competitor Regal last night. Regal’s announcement was a less specific “until further notice.”

AMC currently operates 661 theaters in the States, comprising more than 8,000 screens. The move is major, but not unexpected, as people and companies deal with the realities of living through a pandemic.

Movie attendance has already begun dropping shortly as people have begun to practice social distancing. AMC and other events companies have had to grapple with both concerns over employee and attendee safety, as well as an increasing push on the part of cities and States to close down business and require citizens to stay home in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.

As it notes in a press release issued today, more than a states and cities have mandated such closures over the last few days. As part of the closure, the chain will pause payments on its A-List  memberships during the months-long shut down. No word yet on whether the massive chain has a plan in place to support employees during the closure. We’ve reached out to the company for additional comment.

“We are ever so disappointed for our moviegoing guests and for our employee teams that the new CDC guidelines that Americans should not gather in groups larger than 10 people make it impossible to open our theatres,” CEO Adam Aron said in a release. “Still, the health and wellbeing of AMC guests and employees, and of all Americans, takes precedence above all else. We will continue to monitor this situation very closely and look forward to the day we can again delight moviegoers nationwide by reopening AMC movie theatres in accordance with guidance from the CDC and local health authorities.”

Meantime, the company is encourage housebound movie buffs to use its on demand service. Recently, NBCUniversal announced plans to offer new releases on-demand. Others will likely follow suit in the wake of these major closures.

#amc, #apps, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #entertainment, #health, #movies

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