AMC Theatres Re-Opening 80% of Domestic Screens

AMC Entertainment Sept. 11 announced that as of tomorrow, the nation’s largest exhibitor will have resumed operations in more than 460 locations nationwide, or nearly 80% of the chain’s domestic footprint. The new tally is the result of dozens of locations re-opening in high-profile locations such as Orange County, Calif., Maryland and New Jersey.

After opening its first two locations in Jersey on Sept. 4, AMC will soon be operating fully all its theaters in the Garden State, with 24 theaters reopening this week and one theater expected to open early next week. On Sept. 10, seven AMC theaters in Maryland re-opened for the first time since mid-March when the coronavirus pandemic shuttered the entire industry.

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AMC will reopen three locations on Sept. 11 in Orange County, Calif., and a fourth on Sept. 12. These four theaters are the first AMCs in the greater Los Angeles area to resume operations since March.

Earlier this week, AMC announced that it welcomed its one-millionth moviegoing guest in the United States since reopening. The Company reached that number in less than three weeks and despite significant seating capacity restrictions in place at all open theaters of between 25% and 40% of the maximum capacity. That attendance jumped to more than 4 million when including AMC’s owned theaters in Europe and the Middle East, many of which resumed operations in June and July.

“AMC is coming off our most successful weekend since reopening, thanks in large part to Warner Bros. release of Tenet,” CEO Adam Aron said in a statement. “That is another encouraging sign that our industry is beginning its way back.”

Atom Tickets Survey: Three-Quarters of U.S. Moviegoers Ready to Return to Theaters in a Month

Moviegoers are more eager to return to theaters than they were back in May, according to a new Aug. 17 “Return to Moviegoing” survey from ticketing service Atom Tickets.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of consumers said they were ready to return to theaters within one month and 40% said they are ready to return to theaters immediately, up from 59% and 25% respectively, in a May survey. On the flipside, only 0.8% said they never plan to return to theaters and 15% said they would wait until there is a vaccine for the coronavirus, down from 21% in May.

The August survey received more than 16,000 U.S. digital moviegoer responses, according to Atom.

When asked to identify the most important safety measure to make them feel confident about going back to a movie theater, having spaced seating in the theater auditorium remained the most critical safety feature with 34% saying this was a key condition. The next most critical safety measure noted by moviegoers was staff and guests wearing masks at 30%, more than doubling in importance from Atom’s May survey (14%) and rising in importance over heightened theater cleaning procedures at 13% (down from 21% in May). Of note, 85% of August moviegoers surveyed said that they plan on wearing a mask even if it is not required by the theater or local government.

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The contactless trend that’s surging in the food and retail industries continues to be top-of-mind for moviegoers, with 87% of moviegoers surveyed in August saying that purchasing digital tickets from their own device and eliminating the need to interact with a cashier is an important safety measure, relatively flat with May findings (88%). Concessions may also look different in a post-COVID world, with customers leaning into ordering ahead and picking up their items instead of waiting in lines and being served directly over the counter. Of those who had never pre-ordered movie theater concessions, 68% said they are now likely to try it (up from 61% in May). Among those that had previously preordered their movie snacks, 90% said they would do it again.

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“We’re encouraged by this new survey and believe it’s a good sign for the movie industry. Our data also showed that eagerness to return to the movies has more to do with how often you went to the movies before the pandemic rather than by age or region,” Matthew Bakal, chairman and co-founder of Atom Tickets, said in a statement. “I’m pleased to see the heightened interest in safety measures including pre-ordering tickets and concessions. We know people want to enjoy the movies together with friends and family and will do so responsibly.”

The survey also revealed new films will get most moviegoers to return to the big screen, with 49% of those surveyed saying they would rather wait for new movies to be released before returning versus 35% who said they would return to cinemas to see re-releases of classic movies. Also, according to the survey, the 2020 films that moviegoers were most excited to see on the big screen were Black WidowWonder Woman 1984 and the “James Bond” movie No Time to Die. For 2021, moviegoers were eager to see The Eternals from Marvel Studios, The Batman and Jurassic World: Dominion.

Complementing new safety and cleaning guidelines by movie theaters, Atom has launched new buffered seating maps and Safety Guidelines on their app and website.

Walmart Converting Parking Lots into Movie Drive-Ins

With spikes in coronavirus infections putting a damper on movie theater re-openings nationwide, Walmart July 1 announced plans to covert 160 store parking lots into movie drive-ins to screen family-themed movies, beginning in August.

The retail behemoth is working with Tribeca Enterprises to transform store parking lots into contact-free drive-in theaters across the country for a combined 320 showings featuring studio movies, special appearances from filmmakers, celebrities and concessions delivered to customer vehicles. The drive-in concept will run through October. Additional details will be announced closer to the start of the tour.

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Ahead of the screenings, Walmart will enable moviegoers to order drive-in snack essentials online for curbside pickup on the way to the screening.

“Drive-Ins have been a signature program for Tribeca since we started the Tribeca Film Festival 19 years ago after 9/11,” Jane Rosenthal, CEO and co-founder of Tribeca Enterprises and Tribeca Film Festival, said in a statement. “But now, the Tribeca Drive-In is much more than a fun, retro way to see movies — it’s one of the safest ways for communities to gather.”

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Walmart is testing the concept as a presenting partner for Tribeca Drive-In movie series, which begins July 2 at select stores in Arlington, Tex., Pasadena, Calif., Nassau County, NY and Orchard Beach in the Bronx, NY, featuring modern classics and family favorites, including Wonder Woman and Space Jam, with a mix of ticketed and free events honoring COVID-19 frontline workers. The full schedule and tickets can be found at TribecaFilm.com.

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.