AMC Entertainment, the biggest chain of U.S. movie theaters, will open the bulk of its venues -- 450 -- on July 15, hoping to grab what remains of the big box-office revenue-producing summer blockbuster film season.
A week after that opening, on July 24, AMC’s remaining 150 theaters will open. This will be in time for Walt Disney’s big “Mulan” release (July 24) followed by Warner Bros.' highly touted summer film “Tenet” a week later (July 31).
All U.S. movie theaters were completely closed down starting in March -- except some drive-in theaters -- due to concerns over COVID-19 and state stay-at-home orders.
This caused massive financial distress for the theater distribution business. Analysts are concerned that the lack of business could force many theater chains -- including AMC -- into bankruptcy.
As part of its openings, AMC says it will limit in-theater guest attendance to its theaters -- slowly expanding capacity over four different phases.
Phase One will limit capacity to 30%, where it will block out every other row of seats in its auditoriums. In Phase Two, capacity will expand to 40%, with seats being blocked on either side of every party.
In Phase Three, expected around Labor Day, theaters will move to a 50% capacity. Full capacity -- Phase Four -- is not expected for several months, around the Thanksgiving holiday.
AMC intends to install many health protections for employees and guests, including encouragement (not a requirement) for guests to use masks, sanitizing seats and theaters between showings, and altering/rearranging concession sales.
On Thursday, AMC stock closed up 4% (to $5.63) and then went 8% higher in aftermarket trading to $6.10.
During this shutdown period, movie theater chains have been negatively impacted as some studios have shifted intended theatrical films to premium video streaming apps.
The most glaring example has been Universal Films’s “Trolls World Tour,” which pulled in around $100 million in streaming fees ($19.99 per rental) over a three-week run in April. The first “Trolls” movie pulled in $153.4 million in U.S. theatrical revenues.
in addition, movie theaters have been hurt by the absence of in-theater, pre-show TV-like advertising that runs in virtually all U.S. theaters.
In-theater ad revenues for 2019 totaled $735 million in the U.S, according to WARC, with global in-cinema advertising at $4.6 billion -- up 7% from the previous year.