The Impact of Avengers: Endgame on Theaters

Nearly a month into its box-office run, Avengers: Endgame has broken virtually every record it can. Sure, it's increasingly likely the film won't end up taking down James Cameron's Avatar as the highest-grossing film to hit theaters, but it's still kept theaters plenty busy. With such a large film hitting theaters, we wondered: how they were they able to handle around-the-clock showings, and how was typical theater infrastructure mpacted by the biggest movie of the last decade?

As expected, Endgame ended up coming in above the expectations of both the theater executives we spoke with, even with a massive three-hour runtime.

"Every time you have a three-hour movie, then it's difficult to get two primes in at good times," Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League tells ComicBook.com. "But we ended up showing this movie basically for 22 hours a day on opening weekend, so we just did it by extending and expanding our hours."

League says thanks to his background in engineering, Alamo is a very data-driven chain, and Endgame still outperformed the numbers they anticipated. The film ended up breaking the record for biggest day-one advanced ticket sales ($1.6 million) as its box office receipts totaled $3.5m throughout Alamo's 38 locations opening weekend — or roughly $94,600 per theater, dwarfing the national average of $76,701 per theater.

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(Photo: Nick Simonite / Alamo Drafthouse)

Luckily for all chains, they've had 10 years and 21 MCU properties to use as they prepared for the brunt of Endgame. Cinemark VP of Marketing and Promotions Bryan Jeffries tells us that, while it's ultimately down to the chain's individual locations to hire staffing for the movies, there was a general understanding that all theaters would be working at full staffing capacity.

"When it comes to something like Avengers, and I'll even throw in Harry Potter, Twilight, any of those films that were of the same popularity, you pretty much know what you can run in your building in terms of staffing to handle the capacity," Jeffries admits. "We knew Avengers: Endgame was going to be the biggest thing that we've ever had to handle, and we certainly staffed appropriately, but there was a point where you actually couldn't staff anymore because of the physical footprint of every building."

Cinemark, the third largest chain in the country based on market share, also saw Endgame break most of its internal records, including most tickets sold in the first 24 hours on sale, most advanced tickets sold prior to the film release, and the highest number of patrons attending the opening weekend of a film. The largest audience also managed to do wonders for the chain's food and beverage offerings, helping to break Cinemark records for most soft drinks and popcorn sold in a single weekend.

"How about this for a word? It was busyness as usual," remarks Jeffries. "In the end, by the time you tried to get everybody through your building, you only had the number of seats that you had, and you only had the number of showtimes that you had, and speaking from an operations standpoint, it wasn't that it was any busier at that one moment."

Jeffries gives an example of having a 300-seat auditorium. With Endgame, they were allowed to pack the auditorium with each screening throughout the film's entire opening weekend, allowing for the chain to add as many showings as they could sell out of.

"It went that way from sun up to sun down," Jeffries says. "That's when it got busier. In other words, it wasn't busier at that very second at 7:00 at night. We've handled sold-out 7:00 shows before, but now you were sold out at 8:00 and 9:00 and 10:00 and 11:00. It just made for longer days, but the actual handling the people at the moment that they were in the building was no different than any other sold out shows that we've ever had to handle."

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(Photo: Cinemark)

Alamo was also sure to increase staffing across the board, though the theater had already started hiring additional employees for the summer blockbuster season.

"We were sold out for all shows, basically, of Endgame in advance, so we knew what was coming," says League. "Sure, there were memos that were sent out, but there's was a lot of communication about getting ready and people taking on extra hours and additional shifts in addition to hiring more people to handle the load."

Though Endgame was larger than any movie either chain had seen before, neither company plans to change up any internal plans or procedures. As League says, the entire industry and moving increasingly online, with advanced ticket sales and online reserved seating becoming more and more of an indicator of how a movie will fair during its opening weekend.

"The biggest thing that has been morphing over the years has been the nature of online reserve tickets, reserve seating," mentions League. "And how that really can help us not be caught unaware, or have many unexpected moments anymore because we know what's happening in advance. That's a great thing."

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Avengers: Endgame is now showing.

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