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AMC to offer 15-cent tickets on first day of reopening

AMC Theatres, the nation’s largest movie theater chain, will reopen in the United States next week with retro ticket prices of 15 cents per movie to celebrate its centennial.

AMC Entertainment, which owns the chain, said Thursday that it expects to open the doors to more than 100 cinemas – or about a sixth of its nationwide locations – on August with throwback pricing for a day.

For the ‘Centennial Celebration, all AMC U.S. theatre locations that open on August 20 will offer all available seats for all movies that day for the 1920’s admission price of 15 cents each’ a press release said.

But seating capacity will be significantly reduced at the theaters to allow for safe social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

AMC theaters have reopened in numerous other countries but have remained shuttered in the U.S. since March.  

The COVID-19 pandemic was a harsh blow dealt to a number of industries, including movie theaters and film.

‘It should be no surprise to anyone that with our operations shut the world over, and almost no revenues coming in the door, this was the most challenging quarter in the 100-year history of AMC,’ CEO Adam Aron said. 

Revenue for entertainment companies plummeted as families opted to stay home over fears of infection and lockdowns forced venues to close.

It was revealed earlier this month that AMC Theatres’ revenue sunk by 99 per cent, losing them $561million, in the second quarter. It previously closed all 630 cinemas in the United States. 

But on Thursday, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. shares were up in pre-market trade. The company’s shares took a dive earlier this year but have steadily increased in recent weeks. 

So far, the United States has recorded 5,201,233 cases of COVID-19 and 166,038 deaths since the virus first entered the country in January.  

AMC said Thursday is expects about two thirds of its theaters will be open in time for the upcoming release of ‘Tenet’ on September 3.

Several states, including California and New York, have not yet allowed movie theaters to reopen. 

AMC has implemented a number of new health measures to assure moviegoers and mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

All guests are required to wear face masks, theater seating capacity has been lowered and ventilation systems have been upgraded.   

After several false starts due to a summer rise in coronavirus cases throughout much of the United States, widespread moviegoing is currently set to resume in late August.

The company had planned to begin opening theaters July 17, but the July theatrical release calendar was effectively wiped clean when Disney and Warner Bros. decided to delay the releases of ‘Mulan’ and ‘Tenet’ to August dates. 

At that time, Aron warned investors that the road to resuming full operations would be ‘choppy.’

‘After a period of time where billions of people have endured confinement and limited social interaction, we believe that there will be a significant pent-up demand to get back out in the world,’ he said.

‘Having said that, we’re under no illusions. The waters will be choppy. There may be unforeseen tosses and turns to be navigated through. And full recovery may take quite a while.’  

During its opening-day promotion, AMC will show catalog films, including ‘Ghostbusters,’ ‘Black Panther,’ ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘Grease.’ Those older films will continue to play afterward for $5.

The Missouri company will also have a $5 discount for concessions and food through the end of October.

‘We are thrilled to once again open our doors to American moviegoers who are looking for an opportunity to get out of their houses and apartments and escape into the magic of the movies,’ Aron said in the press release.  

AMC confirmed that Disney’s much-delayed ‘New Mutants’ will debut in theaters August 28, with Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’ to follow September 3. 

Warner Bros. is planning to release ‘Tenet’ a week earlier internationally, including in Canada. 

A handful of smaller new releases are also planned for late August, including ‘Unhinged,’ a thriller from Solstice Studios with Russell Crowe; and Armando Iannucci’s ‘Personal History of David Copperfield,’ from Disney’s Fox Searchlight.

AMC and other chains have said they will operate at reduced capacity to facilitate social distancing, along with increased theater cleaning and required mask wearing.

Regal Cinemas, the second largest chain, is to reopen some U.S. locations on August 21. 

AMC Theatres is feeling the pinch of the coronavirus pandemic as the world’s largest operator of cinemas saw its revenues plunge by 99 per cent during the most recent quarter.

The Leawood, Kansas-based company, which is owned by the Chinese firm Dalian Wanda Group, operates 630 theaters in the United States.

Since March, all of them have been shut down due to the ongoing pandemic.

In the three-month period that ended in June, AMC Theatre generated just $18.9million, according to the Los Angeles Times.

During the same period last year, the company raked in $1.5billion.

AMC reported an overall loss in the second quarter of $561.2million. During the same period last year, it earned a profit of $49.4million.

Wall Street analysts are predicting that AMC’s revenue will drop even further during the third quarter to $11.9million.

Since March, all of the company’s American cinema locations have been shut down. Internationally, AMC reopened 37 theaters beginning on June 30.

The company is hoping to have two-thirds of its US cinemas up and running this month – in time for the September 3 opening of Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated offering Tenet.

AMC is also aiming to have ‘essentially all international theaters’ reopen this month.

‘It should be no surprise to anyone that with our operations shut the world over, and almost no revenues coming in the door, this was the most challenging quarter in the 100-year history of AMC,’ CEO Adam Aron said.

Despite the grim second quarter results, AMC doesn’t appear to be in danger of bankruptcy just yet, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The company recently completed a debt restructuring with most of its bondholders who own an aggregate $2.6billion in subordinated debt.

As part of the restructuring AMC will receive a cash infusion of $300million.

‘The result of all these actions during the quarter combined with this successful debt restructuring extends our ability, if need be, to weather a hypothetical suspension of all our theatre operations globally into 2021,’ Aron said in a statement.

The latest financial data comes just a week after AMC and Universal Studios agreed to shorten the exclusive theatrical window to just 17 days for its films.

The standard window of theatrical exclusivity typically runs about 90 days.

Up until now, the largest chains have steadfastly refused to screen films that don’t give releases a lengthy and exclusive run in theaters before moving onto video-on-demand or streaming services.

Studios, meanwhile, have increasingly sought to deliver new movies more quickly into the home.

The new deal covers Universal films — which include the Fast & Furious franchise, Jurassic Park movies and the Despicable Me series — in the US over the next three years.

After a run of at least three weekends, Universal (and its specialty label, Focus Features) will have the option of steering a film to premium on-demand, including AMC’s own service.

The shortened window only applies to premium video-on-demand — which often means digital rentals of $20 — not standard on-demand or other home platforms.

The deal has potentially profound ramifications for an industry reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s all but certain to lead other studios to press for similar terms from AMC and other exhibitors.

Netflix, which hasn’t been able to previously agree with major chains over briefer runs for its premier releases, could now find deals more palatable.

If widely embraced, a three-week window would also put further pressure on independent theaters which tend to rely on longer runs for films.

Aron called it ‘a historic, industry-changing agreement.’

The deal repairs a rift between AMC, the world’s largest theater chain, and Universal, which is owned by Comcast Corp.

In April, with theaters shuttered nationwide, Universal released the animated sequel Trolls World Tour by video on demand.

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell then trumpeted the digital release as a success and said the studio would, even once theaters reopened, ‘release movies on both formats.’

That infuriated theater owners.

Aron said the company would no longer play Universal releases and claimed he would do the same for any distributor that ‘unilaterally abandons current windowing practices absent good faith negotiations between us.’

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but AMC will get a share of the premium video-on-demand revenue.

‘The theatrical experience continues to be the cornerstone of our business,’ said Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group.

‘The partnership we’ve forged with AMC is driven by our collective desire to ensure a thriving future for the film distribution ecosystem and to meet consumer demand with flexibility and optionality.’

Defending the impact at the box office, Aron said that the first three weeks of ticket sales is when ‘a considerable majority of a movie’s theatrical box office revenue typically is generated.’

The largest chains have been closed in the US for more than four months, threatening their solvency.

Exhibitors, including AMC, are currently planning on a large-scale reopening by late August, with Warner Bros.’ Tenet prepared to usher moviegoers back over the Labor Day weekend, after debuting a week earlier overseas.

Universal has opted to postpone its largest upcoming films — including F9 and Minions — into next year.

The studio sent The King of Staten Island directly to homes.

Its next scheduled release expected in theaters is Candyman on October 16.

The National Association of Theater Owners, the trade organization that represents the country’s theaters, declined to comment on the new deal. 

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