Alamo Drafthouse Renting Entire Theaters for $150

As the movie theater industry continues to suffer during the pandemic, Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse is allowing customers to rent out entire theaters for $150.

Renters must buy tickets (or have friends and family buy them) and buy a minimum of $150 in food and drinks (no outside food).

Renters must pick from a list of movies that include new releases, such as Tenet (at select theaters), and older movies such as Jurassic Park, The Matrix and Wonder Women.

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“When we began rolling out Your Own Private Alamo in select Alamo Drafthouse locations in August, we had no idea what the response would be,” reads the Alamo website. “It was big. Really big. In just the past few weeks we’ve hosted over 700 groups of families and coworkers at just a handful of theaters. And now we’re excited to expand to even more locations and, for the first time, open up the ability to book new release titles like Christopher Nolan’s epic Tenet.”

Windows Are Closing

Several “captains” in this month’s Women in Home Entertainment section noted that one of the long-term effects of the pandemic may be a change in how entertainment is distributed to consumers.

Indeed, we’ve already seen the beginnings of that dramatic shift in content windowing with premium VOD releases such as Trolls World Tour and Scoob!, which went directly into homes as theaters were shuttered. On the heels of those developments, theater chain AMC bowed to the changing times, making a shortened window deal with Universal Pictures. The deal allows Universal to distribute titles on PVOD as few as 17 days after they bow in AMC Theatres, which will receive a cut of the PVOD revenue.

The imprimatur of a theatrical release will certainly take a hit as more quality titles rush into the home window, and the pandemic may forever change how consumers view the home market. The quality of content on TV and from SVOD services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video had already boosted the allure of watching at home, and the closing theatrical window will likely do the same.

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The home entertainment market has had to adapt to numerous distribution models, from video rental stores to sellthrough at mass merchants to VOD. The market has also undergone numerous format changes, from Betamax to VHS to DVD to Blu-ray to 4K Ultra HD to digital. Now, it seems, the theatrical marketplace is being forced to adapt, too.

“There will have to be a descreening [in the theatrical business],” noted Michael Nathanson, of research firm MoffettNathanson, in a DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group presentation Aug. 20.

“We are the most overscreened countries in the world, the U.S. and Canada,” he added.

Meanwhile, AMC’s if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them deal with Universal “shocked” and “puzzled” his team, Nathanson said.

“We think it’s a very dangerous precedent,” he said, adding it is “a bad outcome for theaters.”

“At the end of the day, the theatrical business will be one of blockbusters,” he said.

Meanwhile, PVOD will only gain, with a 17- to 30-day window established and Disney, Universal and Warner leading the charge, he said.

“I think PVOD just becomes the way of the world,” he said.

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.

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,” Mark Zoradi, Cinemark CEO, said 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 The Goonies, Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, Star Wars: 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, Texas, 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).

Data: Moviegoing Demand Strong in Europe; Less So in U.S.

As movie theaters slowly open worldwide following months-long closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, new data from online content recommendation service JustWatch finds consumer interest in returning to the cineplex stronger in Europe than in the U.S.

The French, followed by the U.K. and Germany, are the most enthusiastic about returning to cinemas, while consumer demand in the U.S. remains tentative — likely due to the ongoing scale of the COVID-19 crisis.

Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, contends consumers won’t feel safe returning to movie theaters until a vaccine has been developed.

“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.

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Among moviegoers, abundant supply of free hand sanitizer and socially distant seating seem to be the must-have requirements for people to feel safe when returning to cinemas.

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Regal to Now Begin Opening U.S. Theaters Aug. 21

Regal will begin opening its U.S. theatrical locations Aug. 21 “in response to the recent changes in the upcoming theatrical release schedule,” according to parent company Cineworld.

The theater chain had previously announced it would open July 10.

Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, opening in the United States Sept. 3, will headline new films coming to the theaters such as Unhinged, Greenland and Broken Hearts Gallery, along with the film slate scheduled to release throughout the remainder of 2020, including Wonder Woman 1984Black WidowNo Time to DieSoul and The King’s Man, according to the company.

“Welcoming theatergoers back to our cinemas will be a celebration for not only our team and our industry, but most importantly for the fans who have been anxiously awaiting the year’s upcoming releases,” Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Cineworld, said in a statement. “With the health and safety of our staff, customers and communities as our top priority, we are happy to invite audiences to return to the timeless theatrical experience that we have all dearly missed.”

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Regal theaters will enforce previously announced health and safety measures that adhere to the latest CDC and public health guidelines, including sanitization procedures, new social distancing protocols, and mandatory mask policies for Regal employees and guests, according to a press release.

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“Regal will continue to monitor the situation closely and follow any changes to regulations or guidance from public health officials,” according to the press release.

For additional information, consumer can visit the mobile app or REGmovies.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.

Regal Theaters to Reopen July 10

Cineworld, parent company of Regal, has announced the reopening of its theaters starting July 10.

“Regal will take all the necessary measures to keep customers and its team safe,” read a company press release. “Among other things, the seats in the auditoriums will be limited to allow social distancing, along with increased sanitization and cleaning.”

The phased reopening will consist of a majority of the circuit opening on July 10 with the remainder of theaters open on July 24. Consumers can view opening plans on the mobile app or online at REGmovies.com.

“Research shows how much people miss the cinemas. We are thrilled to be back,” said Mooky Greidinger, Cineworld CEO, in a statement. “With the great movies ahead including Mulan, Tenet, A Quiet Place Part II, Wonder Woman 1984, No Time to Die, Black Widow, Soul, Top Gun: Maverick and many more, we at Regal are committed as always to be the best place to watch a movie.”

Regal will offer a wide selection of classic movies based on feedback from moviegoers and studio partners, according to the release. The movies will be available at a discounted price of $5 for adults and $3 for children. In anticipation of the opening, guests who purchase $50 in Regal eCards June 19 through June 25, will receive a free $15 concessions promo eCard.

Through research conducted with members of the Regal Crown Club, an overwhelming 66% of the customers responded they were ready to come back without hesitation, according to the press release.

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Reopening plans include a range of new health and safety measures based on guidelines provided from the CDC and other public health organizations, according to the press release. Regal will also provide new contactless payment options and innovative sanitizing methods including:

  • Contactless payment. Along with the ability to purchase tickets in advance on the Regal mobile app, guests will now have the ability to purchase concession items from the app.
  • Ultra Low Volume (ULV) Foggers. Employees will sanitize every auditorium and seat after each movie using new electrostatic fogger equipment. This form of deep sanitization is highly effective in disinfecting all materials with a non-toxic formula that is fast drying, according to the press release.

Along with the above procedures, each theater will sanitize high-contact points on an increased schedule and use floor markers throughout the building to assist with social distancing.

Survey: 77% Ready to Return to Theaters in a Few Months

An Atom Tickets survey found 77% of respondents were ready to return to theaters within a few months, with 25% willing to return immediately. Only 1% said they never plan to return to theaters.

Digital movie ticketing platform Atom surveyed more than 1,500 moviegoers about their moviegoing intentions in the midst of theaters’ temporary closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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 was by far the most critical safety feature at 42.2% or respondents. The next most critical safety measure was heightened theater cleaning procedures at 21.14%, followed by staff and guests wearing masks at 14.36%. Only 6.41% of moviegoers said taking staff and guest temperature readings before screenings was the most important condition that must be met before they would feel comfortable returning.

More than 88% said that purchasing digital tickets from their own device and eliminating the need to interact with a cashier was an important safety measure. As far as concessions, customers were interested ordering ahead and picking up their items instead of waiting in crowded lines and being served directly over the counter. Of those who have never pre-ordered movie theater concessions, 61% said they are now likely to try it.

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“Moviegoers are telling us that they miss the experience of going to the movies and they’re ready to get back, but that the experience needs to look slightly different than before,” said Matthew Bakal, chairman and co-founder of Atom Tickets, in a statement. “We anticipate a rapid acceleration in digital ordering, just as we have seen in other industries, in order to reduce the amount of person-to-person interactions. We’re eager to resume being together with friends and family, but we want to do so responsibly. Atom is working with our theater partners to roll out spaced seat maps so that guests can see the steps being taken in order to provide a safe environment.”

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In terms of films moviegoers were looking forward to seeing, the female superheroes led the pack with Black Widow and Wonder Woman 1984 taking 58% and 51% of votes, respectively. The James Bond installment No Time to Die, Disney’s Mulan and Top Gun: Maverick rounded out the top five. Millennial moviegoers weighed in slightly differently, with John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place Part 2 coming in third.

Regal Owner Joins in Blasting Universal for Window Strategy

Regal theater chain owner Cineworld April 29 added its voice to criticism of Universal over its strategy to break traditional theatrical windows, boosted by the success of the studio’s premium VOD release of Trolls World Tour.

“We make it clear again that we will not be showing movies that fail to respect the windows as it does not make any economic sense for us,” read the Cineworld release.

In its criticism, Cineworld followed AMC Theatres, which April 28 vowed not to show Universal films because of the studio’s stance. On the heels of Trolls World Tour generating upwards of $100 million from its premium video-on-demand release, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell April 28 told The Wall Street Journal the studio would pursue a simultaneous theatrical/home entertainment release strategy going forward.

“The results for Trolls World Tour exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD,” Shell said. “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.”

Like AMC, Cineworld reasserted its support for a window and scolded Universal.

“Cineworld and Regal’s policy with respect to the window is clear, well known in the industry and is part of our commercial deal with our movie suppliers,” read the press release. “We invest heavily in our cinemas across the globe and this allows the movie studios to provide customers all around the world the opportunity to watch movies in the best experience. There is no argument that the big screen is the best way to watch a movie. Universal unilaterally chose to break our understanding and did so at the height of the COVID-19 crisis when our business is closed, more than 35,000 employees are at home and when we do not yet have a clear date for the reopening of our cinemas. Universal’s move is completely inappropriate and certainly has nothing to do with good faith business practice, partnership and transparency.”

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The press release noted that Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger approached Comcast chairman Brian Roberts on March 19, after the Trolls World Tour PVOD announcement, and told him: “Nice words from your team are worthless if we cannot trust you as a partner. The message that the media has portrayed is: ‘Hollywood breaks the window’ — well, this is not true! All our partners called us in a timely manner and told us that in the current situation they want to shorten the window for movies that were already released as cinemas are closing. Most importantly, they all reassured us that there will be no change to their window policy once the cinema business returned. Unfortunately I missed a similar message in Universal’s announcement… not only did Universal provide no commitment for the future window — but Universal was the ONLY studio that tried to take advantage of the current crisis and provide a ‘day-and-date’ release of a movie that was not yet released.”

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The release went on to say the company “was always open to showing any movie as long as the rules were kept and not changed by one-sided moves.”

“We have full confidence in the industry’s current business model,” the release read. “No one should forget that the theatrical side of this industry generated an all-time record income of $42 billion last year and the movie distributors’ share of this was about $20 billion.”