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AMC Turns To 15-Cent Tickets And Distancing Strategies To Reopen

AMC Entertainment Holdings is planning to reopen many of its shuttered U.S. theaters on Aug. 20 or shortly thereafter despite continuing high levels of coronavirus infection. The company said it is making a multipronged effort to persuade theatergoers to return.


The company calls its initiative "Safe & Clean," which includes limiting the number of people in its theaters to 30% of capacity, blocking off every other row, implementing heightened cleaning protocols for auditoriums between each screening and upgrading HVAC systems. AMC has also simplified its concession menus and is no longer accepting cash at its concession stands.

As for the question of masks, the company now says it will be required of patrons, with the exception of when they are eating and drinking.

AMC is also offering 15-cent admission on the first day of its reopening. The price is an homage to the nominal charge for tickets when the company opened its first theater 100 years ago.

At first, older movies such as Back to the Future and Grease will be shown at about 100 theaters. AMC's goal is to have about 400 of its 600 U.S. locations open by Sept. 3, when the spy movie Tenet opens, Variety reports.

In early June, AMC, a major movie exhibition company in both the United States and Europe, with about 1,000 theaters and 11,000 screens worldwide, expressed doubt about its survival in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Since then, it has expressed a bit more optimism, especially as overseas theaters have reopened.

"With no revenue to speak of coming in the door until June and then for AMC only in some countries in Europe, you are already all aware that the second quarter of 2020 was arguably the most difficult and unsettling quarter that the theatrical exhibition industry and AMC have ever seen," AMC CEO Adam Aron said during the company's most recent earnings call.

To survive, he said, the company cut costs drastically, including spending "endless time devoted to landlord negotiations," as well as planning for "safe and responsible theater reopenings."

U.S. theater operations were suspended for the entire second quarter from April through June, while international theaters resumed limited operations in early June. As of the end of June, AMC had reopened 37 theaters in nine countries, and as of early August, the company had managed to open 184 locations.

"It's very early ... but the initial results from our international locations are encouraging, particularly with respect to food and beverage spend per person, which is holding up nicely and actually running well ahead of last year," Chief Financial Officer Sean Goodman said during the call.

Separately, another major U.S. retail chain, the Halloween costume and goods specialist Spirit Halloween, is making its own effort to open as normally as possible. As a seasonal retailer, the company typically opens stores during the run-up to the October holiday, starting in August. Last year, about 1,400 locations were open.

It also is stressing capacity limits and heightened cleaning protocols, much as other retailers are practicing, and will require customers and workers to wear masks.