As movie theaters try to encourage people to watch films on the big screen again while the battle against COVID-19 continues, AMC Theatres is trying something that no theater chain has tried before: a national ad campaign.
The world’s largest chain announced on Wednesday that it is kicking off a $25 million ad campaign across multiple media platforms, highlighted by an ad featuring Nicole Kidman strolling the halls of one of AMC’s newest locations in Porter Ranch, California. The ads will be featured at all of AMC’s 600 locations as well as in TV and digital spots in the U.S. and Europe.
It would seem that unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. Theater chains normally don’t need to advertise themselves. The studios take care of that by advertising the films that people come to the multiplexes for. But with the pandemic still leaving some major demographics reluctant to return to theaters, exhibitors are trying to get the word out that their businesses are safe places to watch a movie.
Earlier this summer, the National Association of Theater Owners launched an ad campaign called “The Big Screen Is Back” featuring a quick sizzle reel of the summer’s top films. But AMC is taking it a step further with an ad appealing to the experience of moviegoing itself, with Kidman speaking wistfully of “dazzling images on a huge silver screen” and “sound you can feel.”
“Especially in recent years, AMC and other theatre chains have introduced sophisticated marketing programs to ensure our theatres are relevant. However, relying on ‘what’s always worked before,’ cinema operators have counted on others to undertake significant television advertising campaigns to drive audiences into our buildings,” AMC CEO Adam Aron said in a statement.
“With all the change occurring in these uncharted waters in which we now navigate, we believe it is high time for an industry leader like AMC to go on television to remind today’s audiences of the magic that can only be found in a movie theatre and at AMC, with our big seats, our big sound and our big screens.””
While AMC still faces hundreds of millions in debt due in 2024, the company was able to reduce that debt earlier this year thanks to a huge surge in its stock price with thousands of meme traders boosting it to unprecedented levels. The studio is also acquiring new multiplexes in prime locations including the Grove and Americana locations run in Los Angeles by the now-defunct Pacific Theatres.
Still, AMC says that the company and theaters in general need the box office to return to around 80-90% of pre-pandemic levels before they can start turning a consistent profit again. This past weekend, the summer box office season finished with a total of $1.75 billion in North America, approximately 47% of the amount grossed in summer 2017.