The New York Times Company
LOS ANGELES — Movie theaters around the world are reopening, with AMC Theaters, the world’s largest cineplex operator, announcing Tuesday that “almost all” of its locations in the United States and Britain would reopen next month. Overall, theaters in 90% of overseas markets will be running again by mid-July, according to the National Association of Theater Owners, a trade organization for movie exhibitors in 98 countries.
In just three weeks, Hollywood is scheduled to restart its supply pipeline of new films. “Unhinged,” a $33 million Russell Crowe thriller, will arrive in theaters July 1, followed in mid-July by Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” a $200 million-plus mind bender.
The question, however, is whether people will feel safe from the coronavirus, the spread of which rose to a worldwide high Sunday, as measured by new cases.
Theater executives say they are confident that aggressive safety measures will offset any fears. Some states, including California, the nation’s No. 1 movie market, are requiring cinemas to limit capacity to 25%, at least initially. Groups will be seated at least 6 feet apart in a “checkerboard” style. Some cinemas may designate arrival times for ticket buyers to reduce last-minute crowding at concession counters. More theaters will allow patrons to order concessions with their phones. Seats will be sanitized before each showtime; California officials asked theater owners to consider using disposable seat covers.
Theater owners are desperate to start selling tickets again. Kansas-based AMC said Tuesday it lost $2.18 billion in its latest quarter, compared with a loss of $130 million a year earlier. Revenue totaled $942 million, a 22% decline. As of April 30, AMC had $718 million in cash, enough to stave off bankruptcy through the fall even if theaters remain closed.
Cinemark, a Texas-based chain that operates 6,132 screens in the United States and Latin America, recently reported a quarterly loss of about $59 million, compared with profit of $33 million a year earlier. Revenue totaled $544 million, a 24% decline. Cinemark has a cash balance of roughly $640 million.
Cinemark said it would begin reopening theaters in the United States on June 19, with the goal of having every location popping popcorn again by July 10.
Tennessee-based Regal Theaters, which operates cinemas in 42 states, has indicated it would also reopen in July.