Movie theaters re-opening Movie theaters re-opening

Theaters are back, but not necessarily with a bang. Large swathes of the U.S. exhibition sector are intending to reopen over the coming month — but polls, including one run by Cartoon Brew, indicate that most people aren’t planning to buy a ticket any time soon.

On Twitter, we asked when people would feel comfortable visiting a theater. Only 21.3% of the 856 respondents said that they’d consider going this summer. The most popular option was “3 to 12 months,” which drew 42.6% of replies. Meanwhile, 6% said that they’d never go to a cinema again.

AMC, the largest movie theater chain in the U.S. (and the world), has vowed to reopen “almost all” its locations in the U.S. and U.K. by July, in time for blockbusters like Disney’s Mulan remake and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. To put that in context: the company posted a massive $2.2 billion loss in the first quarter of this year, and has expressed “substantial doubt … about our ability to continue as a going concern for a reasonable period of time” should venues fail to reopen soon (see its recent 8-K filing for more).

In California, the Department of Public Health has issued guidelines that allow theaters to reopen as early as today. Even if few have actually done so yet, doors may start opening within weeks. Cinemark, which operates a few theaters in L.A., is planning a phased reopening between June 19 and July 10, reports Deadline. However, under the guidelines, theaters can operate at no more than 25% capacity.

The picture is similar in New York, where a number of independent theaters are gearing up to resume operations by next month — with stringent health measures in place. Anyway, nothing is guaranteed: entertainment venues can only reopen in New York City once the city has entered the fourth of four phases. New York City is still in the first phase, while other parts of the state are in phase two. This article in Gothamist reports on the current state of the city’s exhibition sector.

In other territories, some theaters have already reopened. The National Association of Theater Owners, a trade organization that represents exhibitors in 98 countries, has said that theaters in 90 percent of the global theatrical market will be running again by July 17 (the planned release date for Tenet).

For exhibitors, there are causes for optimism: AMC’s CEO Adam Aron points to its reopened venues in Norway, where he says 83% of available tickets were sold last week. But other polls in the U.S. echo our own, finding that most of the public is erring on the side of caution, and many online are stating that they won’t visit a theater until a vaccine exists. In other words, they won’t go any time soon.

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Deputy Editor of Cartoon Brew.

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