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 chain’s 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 closed. 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 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 to 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.