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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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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Fandango adds new features to highlight health precautions and distancing in movie theaters

As movie theaters reopen across the United States and the world, there are lingering questions about what kinds of measures those theaters will be taking to keep staff and moviegoers safe in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

These concerns were illustrated last week, when AMC CEO Adam Aron said in an interview that the theater chain would not be requiring that patrons wear masks except in locations where they’re legally required to do so — because the company “did not want to be drawn into a political controversy.” Naturally, those comments prompted a controversy of their own, leading AMC to reverse its decision.

So it makes sense for NBCUniversal-owned movie ticketing app Fandango to highlight the different safety measures that theaters are taking.

It’s useful from an informational perspective, so that moviegoers understand and prepare for the experience in theaters, and perhaps choose theaters based on how serious they seem about safety. But it’s also a savvy marketing move, as those theaters will need to convince moviegoers that it’s safe to return.

Fandango social distance seating

Image Credits: Fandango

The new features include what Fandango is pitching as a “one-stop shop” to view the safety measures announced by more than 100 theater chains, with information about auditorium occupancy, social distance seating, mask/protective equipment policies, enhanced cleaning measures and special concession arrangements. There will also be instructional videos, social distance seating maps and a way to search for reopened theaters by location.

Since movie theaters have been closed for the past few months, Fandango also says it will be extending expired rewards from its Fandango VIP+ loyalty programs for another 60 days.

“We are working closely with our friends in exhibition to help get their ticketing back online and film fans back in seats with peace of mind,” said Melissa Heller, Fandango’s vice president of domestic ticketing, in a statement. “In addition to our new product features, Fandango’s mobile ticketing will be an added benefit, helping moviegoers and cinema employees reduce the number of contact points at the box office and throughout the theater.”

#apps, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #fandango, #media, #mobile, #movie-theaters

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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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