Cinemark Theaters to Reopen Beginning Aug. 14

Cinemark Holdings announced the reopening of its theaters closed due to the pandemic beginning Aug. 14 and continuing through Aug. 28.

All theaters will reopen with enhanced cleaning and safety protocols, according to the company.

Tickets are on sale now for Unhinged and the anniversary re-release of Inception. Tickets will go on sale for The New Mutants on Aug. 18 and The Personal History of David Copperfield on Aug. 19. Tickets for Tenet, will go on sale very soon, the company announced.

“Cinemark is thrilled to once again welcome moviegoers across the U.S. to enjoy the unparalleled immersive experience of watching movies on the big screen. Through our very successful test-and-learn theaters, we have heard firsthand from moviegoers that we are truly setting The Cinemark Standard by providing the out-of-home entertainment experience they have been craving in a way that makes them feel protected,” said Mark Zoradi, Cinemark CEO, in a statement. “Furthermore, we have been extremely pleased with the results of our 15 test-and-learn theaters across the U.S., which have consistently been top performers among the 500-plus indoor theaters opened. These strong results, coupled with consumer feedback, underscore that moviegoing is a favorite global pastime, and our teams are trained and prepared to safely welcome guests back to the cinema.”

Additional information on Cinemark’s reopening can be found at www.cinemark.com.

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Prior to the newest films hitting the big screen, Cinemark will showcase classics such as Goonies, Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Pricing for the Comeback Classics is $5 per adult and $3 for children and seniors. There will also be reduced pricing on popcorn and candy and fountain and bottle drinks.

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Employees will undergo safety and sanitization training prior to reopening and will wear face masks and gloves while working. All will complete a wellness check-in prior to every shift. Each theater will also have a designated Chief Clean and Safety Monitor on duty to ensure Cinemark’s standards of safety, physical distancing, cleanliness and sanitization are met.

  • Each auditorium will be extensively disinfected every morning and again between showtimes using pressurized sprayers with products identified by the EPA to be effective in eliminating COVID-19.
  • Theaters will have staggered showtimes and limited capacities to maximize physical distancing.
  • Seat-Buffering Technology will automatically block seats adjacent to a party upon ticket purchase.
  • Face masks will be mandatory for all guests within the theater and may only be removed for eating and drinking in the auditoriums. Face masks and gloves will be required for all employees.
  • Cinemark is raising the fresh air rate by adding refresh and replace cycles and utilizing supply fans to increase total volume of fresh, outside air flowing into theaters.
  • Cinemark vacuums are equipped with HEPA filters.
  • All public and high-touch spaces will be thoroughly sanitized every 30 minutes.
  • Seat wipes and hand sanitizer will be available for customer use.
  • Guests are encouraged to purchase tickets online and use contactless payment methods for a more contact-free experience. With that, cash payments options will be limited.

 

The expiration date of all points for Cinemark Movie Rewards members that expired during the time theaters were closed will be extended to Dec. 31. Members of the Cinemark Movie Club, the exhibitor’s monthly in-theater membership program, will be able to see three Comeback Classics, with a guest, for free and will enjoy their standard 20% concessions discount on top of the welcome back pricing.

Headquartered in Plano, TX, Cinemark, comprised of various brands that also include Century, Tinseltown and Rave, operates 534 theaters with 5,977 screens globally (332 theaters and 4,522 screens across 41 states domestically; 202 theaters and 1,455 screens in 15 countries throughout South and Central America).

AMC, Universal Strike Landmark PVOD Distribution Deal

Universal Film Entertainment Group and AMC Theatres July 28 announced a landmark distribution deal for the studio’s new release movies, which includes provisions for early debuts into the home on premium VOD.

The deal allows Universal, which has aggressively launched movies into retail channels via PVOD during the coronavirus pandemic — creating an acrimonious rift with the nation’s largest exhibitor, AMC, and others — to distribute titles on PVOD three weekends (as little as 17 days) after their initial bow in AMC Theatres. The agreement, which also includes new titles from Focus Features, will afford early consumer access via AMC Theatres On Demand. In the coming weeks, the two companies will begin discussions surrounding international distribution agreements in the countries in Europe and the Middle East served by AMC.

The typical theatrical window has been up to three months. AMC will split the $20 PVOD fee with Universal in return for the abridged window. The agreement does not include the typical retail window when titles are rented and sold from $3 to $6 through myriad digital channels such as Redbox, iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play and Movies Anywhere.

Universal’s traditional windows for electronic sellthrough and video on demand (VOD) remain unchanged. The companies said they reached this agreement based on their “shared commitment” to a mutually beneficial long-term partnership that is focused on serving consumers worldwide, while preserving and enhancing the theatrical experience.

As a result, the deal means when the next “Fast & Furious” installment, F9, hits theaters April 2, 2021, Universal could give consumers the choice to either see it in the cineplex or wait a few weeks to buy or rent it.

“The theatrical experience continues to be the cornerstone of our business,” Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, said in a statement. “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.”

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Peter Levinsohn, Vice Chairman and Chief Distribution Officer of UFEG, who led negotiations on behalf of the studio, said the studio’s commitment to innovation in how it delivers content to audiences is what artists, partners and shareholders expect of Hollywood.

“We are excited about the opportunity this new structure presents to grow our business,” Levinsohn said. “We are grateful to AMC for their partnership and the leadership they have shown in working with us to reach this historic deal.”

AMC CEO Adam Aron, who said the chain “enthusiastically embraces this new industry model,” said the deal puts a premium on the long-term health of the exhibition industry.

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“We would note that just as restaurants have thrived even though every home has a kitchen, AMC is highly confident that moviegoers will come to our theatres in huge numbers in a post-pandemic world,” Aron said. “As people enjoy getting out of their homes, we believe the mystical escape and magical communal experience offered at our theatres will always be a compelling draw, including as it does our big screens, big sound and big seats not to mention the alluring aroma of our perfectly prepared popcorn.”

AMC is planning to reopen about 600 U.S. theaters in August.

OTT.X Announces 2020 Heroes

OTT.X (formerly the Entertainment Merchants Association) is honoring industry “heroes.”

Heroes are team members at digital platforms, channels and retailers; at content companies; and at service and technology companies that facilitate the flow of content to the consumer, “playing an important role in providing the needed entertainment to keep everyone sane during these stay-at-home months,” according to OTT.X.

The individuals are being recognized based on their contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their contributions are being honored at the OTT.X Online Live conference July 22.

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Honorees are:

  • Abel Franklin, director of digital media, Maverick Entertainment
  • Aimee Rogers, manager, FP&A and sales analyst, Cinedigm
  • Alexandra Vigilione, director, product marketing, Cinedigm
  • Brenda Garcia-Ortiz, SVP, worldwide sales, Maverick Entertainment
  • Chris Pak, SVP, FP&A and business development, Cinedigm
  • Dan Sulzer, director, financial operations and royalties, Cinedigm
  • Danny Arroyo, content prep and asset management manager, BLU
  • David Johnson, packaging manager, BLU
  • David Millbern, VP, development and research, Here Media
  • Dylan Canfield, manager, content operations, Cinedigm
  • Erick Varillas, head of production, mitú
  • Evan Liss, digital media specialist, Maverick Entertainment
  • Ian Donnelly, manager, ad operations, Cinedigm
  • Jessica Ruvalcaba, director of content, mitú
  • Katherine Pond, VP, business development, Vizio
  • Kelcie Schwab, linear channel programming and digital coordinator, Maverick Entertainment
  • Lonni Silverman, director, client services, Sony Pictures
  • Michael Thexton, executive director, technology, BLU
  • Natalie Martin, VP, client services, Premiere Digital
  • Sarah Dixon, VP, client services, BLU
  • Tony Huidor, SVP, products and technology, and GM, networks, Cinedigm
  • Zack Coffman, CEO and founder, One World Digital

 

“We are proud to have individuals like this year’s heroes working within our industry,” said OTT.X president and CEO Mark Fisher in a statement. “Their contributions to their companies parlayed into contributions to every stay-at-home’s ability to cope through good quality entertainment delivered into their homes through the Internet.”

Comscore: April U.S. Consumer Consumption of OTT Content Grew in Both Households and Total Hours Over Last Year

U.S. consumer consumption of over-the-top content grew in both total households and total hours from April 2019 to April 2020, according to a report from Comscore.

In April 2020, 69.8 million homes used OTT, an increase of 5.2 million homes compared to April 2019, and the average home viewed 102 hours of OTT content (including AVOD, SVOD and TVOD) during April 2020, an increase of 17 hours compared to April 2019, according to the “State of OTT” report.

There has been a spike in OTT engagement since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that is holding steady for now, according to Comscore. OTT consumption saw “exceptional growth” starting in early March 2020 through April 2020 and has since plateaued, according to the report.

The “Big 5” streaming services (Netflix, Disney+, Amazon, Hulu and Youtube) accounted for 82.5% of OTT streaming hours in April 2020. In monthly OTT households from January 2020 to April 2020, Netflix grew 6%, Youtube 13%, Amazon 10%, Disney+ 14% and Hulu 17%.

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Growth in reach of ad-supported services is outpacing that of non-ad-supported services with ad-supported services growing 9% when comparing April 2020 to January 2020. Non-ad-supported services grew only 5%.

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Households streaming on smart TVs grew the most, up 22% from April 2018 to April 2020. Households streaming on boxes/sticks grew 15% during the time period, while those streaming on gaming consoles fell 6%.

Total viewing hours increased 2.3 billion viewing hours across live TV, DVR, VOD, and OTT in April 2020 versus April 2019. Of this, OTT alone added 1.4 billion total viewing hours.

In April 2020, 21% of connected TV viewing households were cord cutters (households who cut the cord within the past five years), up 3% from April 2019, with 21% cord nevers (households with no cable/satellite subscription in the past five years), up 3% within the same time frame.

The use of pure-play virtual MVPDs to view OTT content has seen a 70% year-over-year growth between the three-month average of February through April 2019 and 2020.

Fandango Launches Program to Help Moviegoers Go Back to Theaters

Movie ticketing site Fandango has launched a program to help moviegoers go back to theaters as cinemas reopen across the country.

Starting June 23, Fandango.com and Fandango mobile apps will begin rolling out new resources and product functionality, including social distance seating maps, a one-stop guide to safety policies provided by more than 100 theater chains, a special search filter to find reopened theaters by location, instructional videos, and more.

“At Fandango, our mission has always been super-serving fans with their entertainment needs, and we cannot wait to help fans get back to the big screen safely and at the right time,” Fandango president Paul Yanover said in a statement. “It’s a complicated rollout, with various states, cities and counties opening their venues in different phases.  We hope Fandango will serve as a helpful one-stop resource for fans to find all the information and services they need for a comfortable return to their local theaters.”

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In Fandango’s guide to health and safety policies provided by theaters across the country, moviegoers can find information that theaters have provided about auditorium occupancy and social distance seating, mask and protective equipment policies, enhanced cleaning measures, special concession services, and more.

“We are working closely with our friends in exhibition to help get their ticketing back online and film fans back in seats with peace of mind,” Melissa Heller, Fandango VP of domestic ticketing, said in a statement. “In addition to our new product features, Fandango’s mobile ticketing will be an added benefit, helping moviegoers and cinema employees reduce the number of contact points at the box office and throughout the theater.”

When theaters begin to reopen, Fandango plans to mobilize many of its other digital properties, including Rotten Tomatoes, Movieclips on YouTube, and its media and performance marketing platforms to help moviegoers get the resources and information they need, according to the company. The company is also planning to support the reopening of theaters and new films scheduled to release this summer with original video, editorial and social content, celebrating the moviegoing experience.

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For members of Fandango’s free-to-join VIP+ loyalty program, Fandango is extending expired rewards for an additional 60 days so that Fandango customers will have more time to use the rewards they’ve earned. Fandango offers the ability to refund and exchange ticket purchases up to the posted showtime. In addition, Fandango customers can now self-process refunds as a guest user, with no account required.

San Diego Comic-Con Going Virtual

The organizers of the annual San Diego Comic-Con, which was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, will instead present the show as an online event called Comic-Con@Home. Dates for the virtual show will be July 22-26, the same dates this year’s convention had been slated to take place at the San Diego Convention Center.

Plans for Comic-Con@Home include an online exhibit hall offering promotions, specials and limited-edition products unique to the celebration. As well, Comic-Con@Home promises exclusive panels and presentations about comics, gaming, television, film, and a wide variety of topics from publishers, studios, and more. Comic-Con@Home will also have a Masquerade, gaming, and many other activities in which fans can participate from their own homes.

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Although Comic-Con@Home will provide badges for fans to print and wear, all aspects of the initiative are free and there are no limits to how many can attend.

“For the first time in our 50-year history, we are happy to welcome virtually anyone from around the globe,” SDCC spokesperson David Glanzer said in a statement. “Though stay-at-home conditions make this a very difficult time, we see this as an opportunity to spread some joy and strengthen our sense of community.”

Virutal events will be announced at Comic-Con.org.

The initiative joins the Comic-Con Museum’s virtual endeavor, Comic-Con Museum@Home, which is already ongoing.

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It remains to be seen how much studios will participate in a virtual Comic-Con as opposed to presenting their own online promotional events. Warner Bros. just announced a virtual event Aug. 22 called DC FanDome to promote movies and TV shows based on DC Comics.

2021 Oscars Ceremony Delayed Two Months to Accommodate Coronavirus Rescheduling

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and ABC Television Network June 15 pushed the date of the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony to April 25, 2021. The Oscar telecast had been slated for Feb. 28.

In addition, the Academy has extended eligibility for the 93rd Oscars to include any film released in 2020 and in January or February of 2021. The typical eligibility period is January to December of the same calendar year, which the Academy announced it would return to in the future.

Nominations will be announced Monday, March 15. The Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards presentation, which was scheduled for a June 20 ceremony in Beverly Hills, has been postponed to a later date still to be determined. The Academy’s Governors Awards, an annual celebration held at the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Hollywood, will not take place this fall.

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The Academy previously announced that movies that had been pulled from theatrical release as a result of theater shutdowns during the pandemic and instead were made available through premium video on demand or streaming services would still be eligible for Oscar consideration.

Many films slated for the summer movie season have been pushed back to the fall and winter, raising uncertainties about the scheduling for prestige films typically released later in the year to vie for awards.

For example, the “James Bond” film No Time to Die was moved from its April theatrical release and will now open Nov. 20. Warner pushed the DC Comics sequel Wonder Woman 1984 from June 5 to Aug. 14, then moved it again to Oct. 2. And director Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which Warner had penciled in for July 17, the date many theater chains expect to fully re-open, was moved by Warner to July 31.

“For over a century, movies have played an important role in comforting, inspiring, and entertaining us during the darkest of times. They certainly have this year. Our hope, in extending the eligibility period and our Awards date, is to provide the flexibility filmmakers need to finish and release their films without being penalized for something beyond anyone’s control,” Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement. “This coming Oscars and the opening of our new museum will mark an historic moment, gathering movie fans around the world to unite through cinema.”

Coinciding with the Oscars celebration, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, initially scheduled to open to the public Dec. 14, will now open April 30, 2021. The museum will feature six floors of exhibition spaces, education and special event spaces, a conservation studio, a restaurant, a museum store, the 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater and the 288-seat Ted Mann Theater.

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Star Wars Celebration 2020 Canceled

Disney-owned Lucasfilm June 15 announced it has canceled the 2020 Star Wars Celebration confab slated for Aug. 27-30 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif., citing the ongoing efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

A memo posted at the official Star Wars Celebration website (StarWarsCelebration.com) states “the health and safety of our fans, attendees, exhibitors, guests and staff is always our No. 1 priority. Due to the global impact of the COVID-19 virus and in speaking with local and state authorities on the latest public health guidelines related to indoor conventions, we have made the decision to cancel Star Wars Celebration for 2020.”

The site announced that the next Star Wars Celebration will take place Aug. 18-21, 2022, at the Anaheim Convention Center. The Star Wars Celebration event, which started in 1999, is typically held every couple of years.

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Fans who were planning to attend this year’s Star Wars Celebration may either transfer their current ticket to the new event dates, receive a refund or receive a credit for Star Wars Celebration merchandise. Those who transfer their tickets to 2022 will receive a free exclusive Star Wars Celebration stormtrooper character pin for all transferred tickets.

All information about transferring tickets or requesting a refund can be found at starwarscelebration.com, and ticket holders will receive an e-mail with detailed instructions on submitting a request. Fans who pre-ordered merchandise can opt to still receive their order or request a refund. The exclusive merchandise planned for this year’s show will be available for purchase online at some point in the future.

The ticket refund and merchandise credit request period will open June 22 and must be completed by Aug. 26. Hotel reservations booked through the Star Wars Celebration housing portal will automatically be canceled.

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Star Wars Celebration is the latest high-profile pop culture convention in Southern California to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, following WonderCon slated for the Anaheim Convention Center in April, and San Diego Comic-Con International in July.

COVID-19 a Push to Cut the Cord

During the pandemic, consumers are sitting at home looking for more visual entertainment than ever before — and evaluating their options. Happily, the disc has gotten a lift as consumers realize the value of the stalwart format, while digital transactional retailers have gained in part by offering premium VOD titles that bypassed or left theaters early.

But, in addition to theaters, one entertainment option that may suffer from COVID-19 is traditional cable, satellite or telco pay-TV. A study from TDG Research found that as virtual MVPD services re-create the offerings of traditional pay-TV, consumers are increasingly seeing less of a need for it. “Most OTT pay-TV services now provide a full complement of both broadcast and cable channels” said analyst Michael Greeson.

Indeed, I am finding it increasingly annoying to sit through commercials on cable that last longer than ads on any AVOD offering and don’t include that convenient countdown to tell you when the torture will end. After scrolling through the numerous cable channels and finding absolutely nothing I want to watch, I am jumping to smart-TV options more and more. The family wants to cut the cord, and the time may be right.

As TDG noted, vMVPD leaders Hulu Live TV and YouTube TV offer the four major broadcast networks, channels that previously helped tie consumers to traditional pay-TV.

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It’s ultimately a flight to quality and value, the same things that have bolstered the transactional home entertainment business since its beginning.

California Movie Theaters Could Re-Open by June 12

New California COVID-19 guidelines released June 8 suggest select industries in the state, including movie theaters, could begin accommodating consumers as early as June 12, depending on local county restrictions.

About 51 of the state’s 58 counties have reportedly applied for accelerated business re-openings — with the exception of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara in the Bay Area. Imperial County in eastern San Diego is the lone holdout in Southern California, according to The Los Angeles Times.

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Businesses affected by the new re-opening guidelines include bowling alleys, miniature golf, batting cages, arcades, and exhibitors such as AMC Theatres, Regal Cinema and Cinemark, among others. The guidelines say theaters may re-open provided they adhere to applicable state and local guidance on social distancing.

Specifically, cineplexes must limit attendance to 25% of theater capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower, per screening. The California Department of Public Health, in consultation with county Departments of Public Health, said it would review and assess the impact of these imposed limits on public health and provide further direction as part of a phased-in restoration of leisure activities.

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All commercial movie screens statewide have been shuttered and staff furloughed or laid off since mid-March when the coronavirus pandemic began to spread throughout the country with significant numbers of infections.

Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter contends exhibitor revenue in the current fiscal quarter is down about 98% since the previous-year period. Pachter believes consumers will be reluctant to go to the movies until a vaccine is on the market.

“People may be eager to visit the theaters once they feel safe doing so, but we think it is unlikely crowds will return to any semblance of normal before a vaccine is widely distributed, particularly in urban and suburban markets,” Pachter wrote in a recent note.

To date, there have been more than 133,000 COVID-19 documented cases in California, and more than 4,600 deaths, according to state records.

In addition to heightened cleaning and personal hygiene awareness for exhibitor employees, California mandates that all moviegoers be screened for virus symptoms upon arrival, asked to use hand sanitizer, and to bring and wear a face covering when not eating or drinking.