AMC Theatres rolled out a plan for reopening their cinemas beginning in mid-July, with theater capacity being increased in stages between July and November, using big-release weekends as pivot points. According to a statement released by AMC, its first phase will open at 30% capacity on July 15, followed by 40% at Phase 2. Labor Day marks the target date to have theaters 50% full, and the current plan is for cinemas to be back to normal in time for the releases of No Time To Die and Soul on Thanksgiving weekend. To accommodate this, AMC says it will automatically "black out" every other row in their cinemas not equipped with reclining seats.
That might mean blacking it out for preordered ticketing, not actually barring people from sitting there; simply removing certain rows would presumably cause crowding in the remaining rows and reduce social distancing. Of course, the argument could be made that it also created distance between people in front of and behind you.
"More than 90% of the attendance of the AMC circuit from the entire United States" will be included in the first wave of openings in July, AMC's Adam Aron said in that interview. They will be in between 35 and 45 states.
The pandemic has hit AMC hard: the chain has been sued by landlords who say some locations have not been paying rent during the closure, and last estimates were that AMC Theatres had laid off 98.5% of its employees in a closure that may now last as long as four months (some early, optimistic projections had held the theatres might be able to open after six weeks of downtime). The company's credit rating was downgraded at the start of this month, with some analysts predicting that AMC would not reopen at all, but more recently reports came out that the chain was talking with bankruptcy lawyers and working on a path forward that would allow the company to continue operations in spite of the hit it's taking right now.
The company, which is already deep in debt, will likely face serious financial problems in the fall, unless creditors can grant AMC a waiver. AMC's creditors may be more likely than usual to grant such a waiver -- after all, the COVID-19 impact has hit virtually everyone. Still, it seems likely that AMC will face an uphill battle in recovering from the losses. Last year at this time, the domestic box office was generating more than $100 million in revenue per week. Now, it's a few thousand dollars from the handful of places where theaters (mostly drive-ins) are still open.
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