AMC Theatres, the world’s largest exhibition circuit, plans to have most its cinemas in key markets, including the United States, open in July.
The announcement was made during the company’s Q1 2020 conference call with investors, where AMC chief executive officer Adam Aron indicated the circuit’s global reopening efforts would coincide with the currently scheduled releases of Warner Bros.’ Tenet on July 17 and Disney’s Mulan on July 24.
AMC has already reopened a total of ten theaters in four of the 15 countries in which it operates: Norway, Germany, Spain, and Portugal. On Monday, June 15, the chain “will start operations at theaters in Italy,” per Aron.
While AMC plans to open theaters in additional international markets in June, when it comes to the chain’s two largest markets—the U.S. and the U.K.—Aron is aiming for a July reopening for “essentially all of our theaters.”
A press release issued in conjunction with AMC’s earning call laid out seven steps the chain will take to “optimiz[e] the timeliness, safety, and profitability of our reopenings.” Those steps include maintaining communication with officials to coordinate reopening timing and requirements; “implementing aggressive marketing communications and promotional activity aimed at jumpstarting consumer demand,” and rolling out safety and sanitation measures. Additionally, AMC’s mobile F&B beverage ordering capabilities will be expanded to an additional 300 U.S. theaters.
“The full details of these strategies and protocols with respect to resumed theater operations will be announced publicly later this month, possibly as soon as early next week,” added Aron.
Individual AMC locations, said Aron, can resume operations “in a matter of a week or two at the most, defined as the date from when the first employee shows up inside a theater to when all the employees are in a theater and it’s open for business.” While AMC theaters will program repertory titles, that does not appear to be a core part of their programming strategy going into reopening. Rather, “to be more safe, and to be more profitable, we’re going to open our movie theaters right up before Tenet,” rather than a month beforehand.
California, per a set of government guidelines released this morning, may allow theaters to open up as soon as this weekend; AMC does not plan to open its California locations at, or shortly after, that date. “It is our view that some jurisdictions which tried to open various venues as early as the first of May were opening prematurely,” said Aron. “We’re much happier opening in June or July, with the bulk of our theaters opening in July, not in June, giving more time for preparation and more time for the world to get the pandemic under better control and containment.”
97 to 98 percent of AMC locations, Aron estimated, will be open before July 17; Aron clarified to investors that the company is using this period to evaluate the profitability of individual locations, stating that “there may be a few theaters that, economically, we decide not to reopen, because they weren’t making all that much money beforehand.”
With 634 locations in the United States as of February 2020, AMC is the largest cinema chain in North America. The second largest, Regal Cinemas, has not yet made any official announcement regarding their reopening timeline. The third-largest, Cinemark, released details of their four-phase reopening plan last week. Their first five cinemas will open in Texas on June 19, and by July 10 the chain expects doors to be opened at all locations.