AMC Theatres adapt to pandemic


Photo used with permission from Creative Commons

The AMC Empire 25 building located in New York City before the pandemic hit.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left a large impact on the American film and theater industry. All movie theaters in the United States were forced to close, hurting sales for film corporations and completely disrupting the blockbuster release schedule for the current year.

Just this August, the largest theater chain in the United States: American Multi-Cinema Entertainment Holdings, Inc. also known as AMC Theatres, began opening up its locations to the public. Claiming more than 1,000 locations worldwide, AMC Theatres has made large changes to the company’s structure, regulations and future in an effort to adapt to the pandemic’s damage.

Regal Cinemas, one of AMC Theatres’ largest competitors in the theater industry and the second-largest theater chain, announced the temporary closure of all 536 locations in the United States on Oct. 8. More than 40,000 Regal employees are affected by the decision made. Consumers are wondering whether AMC Theatres will follow Regal’s lead in closing the theaters until later notice.“This is not a decision we made lightly, and we did everything in our power to support a safe and sustainable reopening in the U.S,” CEO Mooky Greidinger said.

the Company anticipates that existing cash resources would be largely depleted by the end of 2020 or early 2021.

— AMC Theatres

AMC Theatres is also closed to bankruptcy and is now attempting to sell more than 20 million shares of the company in an effort to raise capital of $50 million. AMC Theatres stated in an SEC filing that “given the reduced movie slate for the fourth quarter, in the absence of significant increases in attendance from current levels or incremental sources of liquidity, at the existing cash burn rate, the Company anticipates that existing cash resources would be largely depleted by the end of 2020 or early 2021.”

Big blockbuster movie releases were pushed back until 2021 after seeing underperforming movie sales for the movies “Tenet” and “New Mutants.” Film releases that have been pushed back include “Wonder Woman 1894,” “No Time to Die” and “Fast and Furious 9.” Without the major blockbusters pushing consumers to go to theaters, AMC Theatres has struggled to gain back sales.

In an effort to make up for the lack of sales from the pandemic, AMC Theatres has opened 494 of 598 locations throughout the country with new initiatives to attract a steady stream of customers. The theaters are now re-showing older blockbuster films that have already been released with cheaper tickets. Adult tickets averaged from $14 to $20 before the pandemic, but now go as low as $5. There is also a new initiative launched for individuals to rent out theater rooms for the starting price of $99. The rentals allow up to 20 people per rental. “I’m really interested in the movie theater rental and can’t wait to go back,” junior Amanda Henmueller said.

AMC Theatres has even partnered with businesses in an effort to bring sales up. One example is with Universal Pictures, an American film studio. Their deal allows for the AMC studio to release certain films on demand 17 days after airing in theaters, which allows for Universal to sell directly to consumers. In exchange, AMC Theatres earns a portion of the revenue.

To follow social distancing regulations, auditoriums are now at 40% capacity or less. The regulations also include a mandatory mask policy in the theater unless enjoying drinks and food. Another change that AMC Theatres has enacted includes adding new filtration and sanitary systems to ensure safe healthy protocols. “We’ve upgraded our air filters to MERV 13 [the highest level of safety and cleanliness in the air filtration scale]. It’s about four times the filtration that we had prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” CEO Adam Aron said during an interview with CNBC.

Maryland entered Phase 3 where all businesses may safely open including live music performances and movie theaters to open at 50% capacity. There are 13 AMC locations in Maryland. However, Montgomery County is still in phase 2 of social distancing, which means all theaters in the county are still closed. “I’m a bit upset that I can’t go back to AMC. But I understand that there are necessary precautions that Montgomery County has to take to prevent the spread,” senior Emily DeOliveira said.

Although nothing can replace the feeling of watching a movie premiere with strangers munching on overpriced popcorn in a sound theater, there are alternatives to the in-person movie screenings. There are several drive-in outdoor theaters located around the DMV area. Another option is streaming entertainment from home. There are various servers and platforms that release movies and TV shows. Some popular platforms include Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Freshman Will Jong has taken advantage of the streaming options through Netflix. “I use Netflix to entertain myself after I have finished all my schoolwork. This is a way for me to relax and enjoy my free time,” Jong said.