AMC Theaters unveiled its plans to reopen theaters by mid-July in advance of the release of Disney’s “Mulan” and Warner Bros.’ “Tenet,” which are expected to be the first major blockbusters to be released since the COVID-19 pandemic closed cinemas worldwide this past spring.
The nation’s largest theater chain will reopen 450 of its locations on July 15 with the goal of reopening all of its locations by the time “Mulan” hits theaters on July 24. AMC operates just over 600 locations nationwide.
CEO Adam Aron also announced in a statement that AMC will use a series of health and sanitation protocols it calls “AMC Safe & Clean” to protect moviegoers from COVID-19. The protocols were developed in partnership with faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health and advisors from Clorox. This includes masks and other personal protection equipment for employees while customers will be strongly encouraged but not required to wear masks unless mandated by state or local regulations.
“Social distancing, reduced seat capacity, greatly intensified cleaning regimens, new employee health protocols, contactless ticketing and mobile food & beverage
ordering are all part of AMC Safe & Clean,” Aron said. “So too is a new multi-million dollar commitment to implementing high tech solutions in making AMC theatres safe, including deploying electrostatic sprayers, HEPA vacuums and upgraded MERV 13 ventilation filters. All this is being put into motion because at AMC our single highest priority is the health and safety of our guests and associates.”
AMC also released a tentative timetable on capacity reduction for its auditoriums. Upon reopening, all auditoriums will be capped at 30%, with every other row left empty in non-recliner auditoriums. Ticketing software will be used to ensure that at least one chair is kept open between each part. When local and regional health conditions improve, the capacity cap will be gradually increased to 40% and then to 50%. AMC hopes to reach 50% capacity by Labor Day weekend and full capacity by Thanksgiving weekend, though the chain says that decisions to loosen capacity restrictions will be based on health conditions and information from public officials about the pandemic.
The chain’s planned safety protocols echo those of fellow national chains Regal and Cinemark, which rolled out their reopening plans earlier this week. Among the plans include deep cleaning of all auditoriums at opening and closing along with thorough cleaning between screenings. All high-contact surfaces such as doorknobs and railings will also be cleaned regularly.
Mobile and online ticketing will be strongly encouraged by AMC, but regularly cleaned self-service kiosks will be available at theaters. Online concession ordering for a limited menu will also be made available for all customers. Unlike other chains like Cinemark, AMC will make self-serve soda stations available for customers except where prohibited by state and local guidelines. The self-serve stations are operated by touchscreen and will also be implemented.
In the early stages of reopening, AMC will screen classic films from studios at a ticket price that has yet to be announced. Exact reopening dates for specific theaters will be announced in early July.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has damaged the entire movie theater industry, AMC in particular has found itself in financial struggles due to debt accumulation from acquisitions made prior to the pandemic of competitors like Carmike and Odeon. Earlier this month, the company acknowledged in public filings that the loss of profit from nationwide pandemic closures could force it into bankruptcy.