AMC Theatres, the largest cinema chain in the world, is planning to re-open 450 of its U.S. locations on July 15. The coronavirus pandemic had forced the well-known chain to close over 600 venues in the U.S for about 4 months now.
The company also unveiled plans to reopen in the remaining 150 venues on July 24 afterwards, just in time for their theaters to host Disney’s Mulan and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet from Warner Bros.,which are expected to debut on July 24 and July 31, respectively. AMC did state that the resumption of operations could be impacted if those major studios did delay Mulan or Tenet.
Like the other theatre competitors, AMC is also planning on following social distancing and health guidelines, all of which includes reducing its seating capacity, staggered seatings, implementing new cleaning procedures like placing hand-sanitizing stations throughout its theaters, and encouraging contact-less and cash-free/online concessions and ticket-buying.
AMC CEO Adam Aron said his circuit came up with its reopening plan after consulting with The Clorox Company and the Harvard University’s School of Public Health.
AMC plans on approaching this process in four different phases:
Phase 1, which begins on July 15, will reduce seating capacity to 30 percent. In non-recliner auditoriums, AMC will automatically block out every other row of seats for every showtime.
For Phase 2, capacity will rise to 40 percent and to 50 percent during Phase 3, which is expected to proceed around Labor Day. Full capacity may not be allowed until Thanksgiving, and the dates of the last phases may change based on local and regional health conditions.
Initially, Aron claimed masks would not be required for guests except by state and local guidelines. But after immediate backlash, now Aron has redacted that claim and now stated that masks will indeed be mandatory.
AMC will also not perform temperature checks on the audience, though it will monitor its employees’ temperatures and have them undergo screenings to check for signs of coronavirus.
The announcement comes after AMC’s competitors Regal and Cinemark had released similar plans earlier this week. There had been immense pressure placed on these exhibitors to bring customers back to the big screen. Since their closing in mid-March, the box office across the world has been at a complete standstill.
Aron said in a statement: “After a painful almost four-month hiatus due to the coronavirus, we are delighted to announce that movies are coming back to the big screen at AMC. Our next 100 years of making smiles happen officially begin at approximately 450 theaters across the United States on July 15. I cannot emphasize enough how much care and attention to detail we have taken in developing AMC Safe & Clean, our absolute commitment to optimizing the health and safety of our theaters for our guests and associates … In my heart of hearts, I think we can manage AMC through this crisis. There are no guarantees and nobody knows what coronavirus will look like in the winter or how long it will take to get a vaccine, but I can tell you that we have a very able management team here. We’re going to make every effort to make sure that AMC continues to be well positioned as a leader of the movie theater industry.”