Movie Theaters Struck Hard by Coronavirus Pandemic

Movie theaters are struck hard by the coronavirus pandemic, contending not just with studios pulling back scheduled releases but also with guidelines limiting attendance as well as complete shutdowns.

Following domestic exhibitors’ worst weekend box office in 20 years, AMC Theatres, the largest theatrical distributor company in the United States, on March 16 announced a new seating policy through April 30 in accordance with CDC recommendations on social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Dubbed the “50/50 Policy,” AMC is capping ticket availability to 50% of normal seating capacity, AMC will further limit attendance for each and every showtime in all its open U.S. theaters to a maximum of 50 people.

The day before, the mayors of Los Angeles and New York mandated the closure of all movie theaters in their cities.

In Los Angeles, the movie house closures were among temporary restrictions put in place by Mayor Eric Garcetti to stop large numbers of people from gathering in one place. The restrictions will remain in place at least through March 31 and also include:

  • All bars and nightclubs that do not serve food;
  • All live performance venues, bowling alleys, and arcades;
  • All gyms and fitness centers;
  • All private social clubs;
  • In addition, all restaurants and retail food are prohibited from serving food to dine-in customers (take out and delivery orders are allowed).

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order “limiting restaurants, bars and cafes to food take-out and delivery,” according to an official statement. “Nightclubs, movie theaters, small theater houses, and concert venues must all close.”

The order goes into effect March 17 at 9 a.m. Blasion said he took this “drastic step” because “the virus can spread rapidly through the close interactions New Yorkers have in restaurants, bars and places where we sit close together. We have to break that cycle.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has recommended a limitation on gatherings to a maximum of 50 people — although that is not a legal requirement for businesses in most U.S. jurisdictions. AMC also is complying with all governmental mandates to close certain theatres, restaurants or bars as may be applicable.

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AMC operates 1,000 theaters worldwide, including 11,000 screens.

“The health of our guests and employee teams comes first for AMC,” CEO Adam Aron said in a statement.

Internationally, movie theaters from China, South Korea and other southeast Asian countries to western European countries such as France, Italy and Spain have been ordered closed by governments.


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