In their Q1 earnings call, held the morning of June 3, Cinemark—the third largest exhibitor in North America—outlined a four-phase plan to reopen their U.S. theaters.
As laid out by CEO Mark Zoradi, the first phase of the plan is expected to kick in on Friday, June 19. That weekend will see a “test phase” where five theaters in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area will reopen. The following weekend, approximately a third of Cinemark’s theaters—specifically, those in larger markets—will reopen, while phase three the following week will see an additional third open their doors. Under the plan, Phase 4 will kick into effect the weekend of July 10, with all of Cinemark’s locations (numbering 344 as of February 2020) open by that date.
This phased reopening plan, explained Zoradi, will give Cinemark the ability to come into the July 17 release of Warner Bros.’ Tenet in full force, with weeks of renewed operations under their belt. While government regulation in Texas currently limits theater capacity to 25 percent, Zoradi said he “fully expect[s]” that limit to increase to 50 percent in the majority of American states and counties by the time Tenet is released. Explained Zoradi, “we can operate very, very profitabl[y] even below that level.”
Up until the release of Tenet, Cinemark will show older titles, with tickets discounted to $5 for adults and $3 for children and seniors; there will be no upcharges for Cinemark’s XD premium large-format screens. Upon the release of new titles, ticket prices will go back to what they were before the shutdown. Zoradi notes, here, that concessions deals will be put into place and that special promotions for Cinemark Movie Club subscription members could be implemented as well.
Across the board, Zoradi emphasized that Cinemark’s reopening plan is by no means set in stone and could possibly be adjusted in the coming weeks due to a number of factors. Those include: a lack of “continued positive movement” when it comes to Coronavirus cases decreasing; government regulations regarding social distancing and group gatherings; and a possible change in Tenet‘s release date. While acknowledging that Tenet could be moved another weekend, Zoradi noted to investors that Warner Bros. and director Christopher Nolan himself have expressed confidence in the July 17 opening. “You’ve got to pick a date in the sand that makes sense,” notes Zoradi, adding that if Tenet‘s release date does move “that will not be a devastating change or adjustment” for Cinemark.
As Cinemark theaters reopen, the chain will undertake measures similar to those adopted by chains in Texas that opened last month, namely increased cleaning and sanitation measures, disinfection of high-touch surfaces as well as seats between shows, requiring employees to wear masks and recommending that guests do the same, staggering showtimes, and ensuring social distancing in auditoria. In addition, Cinemark plans to increase contactless, mobile phone-based sales for both tickets and concessions; the latter, which Cinemark has already begun working on, will be “only more important” moving forward.
In addition to its U.S. operations, Cinemark has theaters in 15 Latin American countries, which per Zoradi are “several weeks behind” the United States in terms of their ability to reopen theaters. Cinemark is aiming for an August opening for their Latin American operations, though Zoradi notes the timeline and planning are “complicated” by different situations with regard to the Coronavirus, both from country to country and within countries themselves. Regardless of specific opening dates, Zoradi believes that Cinemark’s Latin American operations will be able to benefit from “all the learnings that take place in the U.S.”
Among the top 25 cinema chains in North America, ranked by theater count, Cinemark is the first to announce a comprehensive reopening plan. Some of those chains have either reopened or announced dates for reopening some of their non-U.S. locations—for example, Reading International in Australia and New Zealand and Caribbean Cinemas in Aruba. Yesterday, Kinepolis Group provided reopening dates for locations in the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and France. The exhibitor is aiming for mid-June to reopen its North American operations, consisting of Landmark Cinemas of Canada and MJR Cinemas in the U.S., though no exact date has been announced.