There’s been a great deal of speculation in recent months about how, exactly, movie theaters are going to reopen, with the coronavirus pandemic far from over. Will moviegoers really enter an indoor space, with recirculated air? And how exactly are the movie theater chains supposed to remain financially solvent in the meantime?
AMC, the nation’s largest such chain, has a plan for its upcoming comeback. The company announced in a press release on its investor relations website last week that, to mark its 100th anniversary in business, AMC theaters will reopen 100 theaters on August 20 and that tickets will cost “1920 prices,” which were 15 cents.
What movies will moviegoers be able to watch? There will be such special events as the Inception Tenth Anniversary re-release that was scheduled for the actual anniversary in July, as well as such catalog releases like Black Panther, The Empire Strikes Back, Ghostbusters, and Back to the Future.
The reopening also includes new releases such as the Russell Crowe vehicle Unhinged on August 21, the long-delayed The New Mutants, the Armando Iannucci film Personal History of David Copperfield on August 28, and the long-awaited Christopher Nolan movie Tenet on September 3. The Kingsman prequel, The King’s Man, is listed for September 18, although there’s no calendar past mid-September.
AMC has also offered a “Safe and Clean” plan, developed by both Harvard and Clorox which includes “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 theater, and the availability to guests of disinfectant wipes.”
AMC’s CEO, Adam Aron, had stated back in June that AMC would not require masks in the theater, but backed off of that sentiment. And it’s also worth noting that AMC has postponed plans to reopen its theaters more than once since the start of the pandemic.
The company has also listed the 100 theaters that will reopen. In many markets, the theaters reopening are in suburban locations but not urban ones. In the Philadelphia market, for instance, the site lists four theaters as reopening, three of which are suburban, and the fourth of which is more than 50 miles away from Philadelphia. But the AMC Dine-In theater in Center City Philadelphia – a new multiplex that arrived last year – is not opening on the 20th.
Many questions remain about the reopening plan. Will customers go back to the movies? With masks required, how will customers eat popcorn and other concessions, which are a key component of how theaters make money? How many times can AMC, which was said to be in near bankruptcy earlier this year, restructure its debt? And considering how little luck movie theaters have had with getting customers to not use their phones, who knows how they will enforce mask-wearing or other COVID-era safety protocols.
At any rate, we’ll see you back at the movies – maybe – on August 20.