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.”

Analyst: No Virus Vaccine, Netflix to Flourish, Theaters Languish

As local and statewide economies slowly re-open businesses in the face of a COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 50,000 Americans, movie theaters today (April 27) will officially be allowed to open in the state of Georgia.

While Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s order may be wishful thinking, the reality for movie exhibitors is far less rosy with staffing shortages, a dearth of content and a weary consumer, according to media analyst Michael Pachter with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

Pachter expects the 2020 box office to end down 47.1% from 2019 to $6 billion, and 2021 to end 59.5% higher than 2020. He expects minimal box office revenue in the current Q2, with ticket sales down a staggering 96.8% compared to the previous-year period.

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“We think some areas may open in June, but we do not expect attendance levels to begin to normalize until there is a vaccine, or the end of the year at the earliest,” Pachter wrote in an April 27 note. “Studios have no incentive to release new movies until all theatres are open and will be reasonably well-attended, which is not likely until there is a vaccine.”

The analyst says there have been 62 movies either moved or pulled from the release slate, worth an estimated $7.2 billion. Of these films, 17 have not yet been assigned a new release date, worth an estimated $830 million. Of those, The Lovebirds, Scoob! and Artemis Fowl have been slated for streaming or VOD debuts.

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“We expect this list to expand in the coming weeks,” Pachter wrote, adding the negative impact to 2020 domestic box office would be about $2.9 billion.

With Netflix adding an impressive 15.8 million subscribers across all geographies in Q1, the SVOD behemoth expects to add another 7.5 million subs in the current Q2 June quarter — or just below combined Q2 sub additions in 2018 and 2019.

“We think that Netflix will continue to thrive in a shelter-in-place environment, and our best guess is that its current and future subscribers will continue to find themselves spending the majority of their time at home for at least the balance of the current quarter,” Pachter wrote. “We can only conclude that Netflix will continue to deliver outsized subscriber additions for the balance of the year.”

Pachter: Movie Theaters Can Profit on 20% Capacity; Industry to Lose $2.25 Billion in 2020

With movie theaters worldwide shuttered due to the coronavirus, domestic exhibitors in the second quarter are expected to lose upwards of 92% of their revenue in the current fiscal quarter compared with the previous-year period, according to Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles. The industry is projected to lose $2.25 billion in 2020.

The analyst contends the industry is facing a “perfect storm” of challenges that render it a sitting duck without some kind of government assistance. Buy how essential movie theaters are in a world of digital distribution and streaming remains to be seen.

“Those screens that open as early as June will likely show classic tent-poles at a discount to drive attendance,” Pachter wrote in an April 15 note.

Major summer titles are slated to hit theaters beginning in mid-July. Several films have yet to be rescheduled, and it is not yet clear which will be pushed to later in the year, 2021 or later. It’s also not clear how many titles will move straight to SVOD facing a dearth of content as productions have halted across the industry with stay-at-home orders in place.

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Citing Cinemark’s investor call, Pachter said the chain (and possibly the industry as well) has received positive news from theater landlords willing to “negotiate a deferral of rent under a variety of contract agreements.”

Indeed, media reports say AMC Theatres has already told landlords it cannot pay the rent on its 11,000 screens worldwide. The chain is reportedly in early Chapter 11 discussions.

“This could be a significant positive as the exhibitors’ ability to weather the closures depends to varying degrees on the flexibility of landlords,” Pachter wrote.

The analyst contends that when theaters re-open and social distancing seating is mandated, exhibitors could still be profitable with theater utilization as low as 20% to 30%.

“That’s tertiary positive, at least for Cinemark if not for the group, which bodes well in the case where social distancing is upheld for an extended period,” Pachter wrote.

Netflix Signs Lease to Keep Open Iconic New York Theater

Netflix has announced a lease agreement to keep open New York’s iconic Paris Theatre, one of the oldest art houses in the United States, and the last single-screen theater in New York. The theater was shuttered earlier this year and was re-opened earlier this month to a successful run of Marriage Story, by filmmaker Noah Baumbach.

Netflix plans to use the theater for special events, screenings and theatrical releases of its films. Terms of the lease were not disclosed.

“After 71 years, the Paris Theatre has an enduring legacy, and remains the destination for a one-of-a kind movie-going experience,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, in a statement. “We are incredibly proud to preserve this historic New York institution so it can continue to be a cinematic home for film lovers.”

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The Paris Theatre first opened in 1948, when actress Marlene Dietrich cut the ribbon to commemorate the occasion. The theater, opened by Pathé Cinema, originally showed French titles, the first of which was La Symphonie Pastorale, which ran for eight months.

The Paris became a symbol of prestige cinema, known for showcasing specialized films, and can be credited with introducing renowned foreign-language films to an American audience, including Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, which ran for almost a year from 1968-1969; Claude Lelouch’s A Man and a Woman; and Marcello Mastroianni’s comedy Divorce Italian Style, which played for more than a year. The theater closed in August 2019 after a successful run of Ron Howard’s Pavarotti.

Fandango VIP Presale Buyers of Ch. 3 Can Get Free Copy of a Previous ‘John Wick’ Film on FandangoNow

Fandango VIP members can get a copy of either of the first two “John Wick” movies when they buy advance tickets for John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum on Fandango.

Presales are April 15-17 for Fandango’s VIP advance tickets for the third installment of Keanu Reeves’ neo-noir action franchise.

Fans who purchase Chapter 3 tickets through their Fandango VIP accounts can get a free SD or HD copy of John Wick or John Wick: Chapter 2 on FandangoNOW, Fandango’s transactional video streaming service.

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Members of Fandango VIP, Fandango’s free-to-join rewards program for movie-ticket buyers, can get insider perks such as discounted movies to stream at home, exclusive movie gear, and access to advance screenings.

New In-Home Theatrical VOD Service Launches

A new transactional VOD service offering early home entertainment access to European theatrical releases has launched in the United States.

Dubbed ROW8, the service aims to accelerate home entertainment access to exclusive premieres of foreign theatrical titles in the U.S. market. Users can rent movies for $7.99, watchable on Internet-connected TVs, Roku, Android and Apple devices.

Founded by entrepreneurs George Christoph and Jasmina Christoph, and led by CEO John Calkins (formerly head of digital distribution at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), ROW8 is working with industry advisors Craig Kornblau (former president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment, and current advisor to a number of companies in the GV [Google Ventures] portfolio), and Ken Ziffren, co-founding partner of Ziffren Brittenham.

The service features proprietary technology, guided by CTO David Rondan, offering filmmakers the flexibility of tailoring their in-home releases with session-identifiable watermarks.

ROW8 is initially available on Web, iOS, Android and Roku, with other platforms to follow.

Initial titles include Danish box office hit Darkland; The End?, a stylish and imaginative Italian horror film, and Box 27, an emotional family drama from France.

Calkins said ROW8 aims to focus on advances in digital marketing and consumer demand, in addition to creating alternatives to traditional release patterns for “forward-thinking” film distributors.

“We are passionate film lovers who understand the challenges that a rapidly changing landscape has created for theatrically released films the world over,” he said in a statement.

Initial studio partner includes Germany’s Constantin Films, whose titles Adidas vs. Puma, and World War II drama, Friends Forever are available to stream.

“We are excited to be among the first to provide films to the ROW8 service, and believe the time is right in the market for the consumer to have accelerated access to great theatrical films, without compromising the upside to filmmakers or the risk of being lost in a subscription video-on-demand bundle,” said Constantin CEO Martin Moszkowicz.

China Streaming Video Service iQiYi Opens First On-Demand Movie Theater

Chinese online video platform iQiYi has launched what it claims is the first on-demand movie theater in the world.

Dubbed “China’s Netflix,” iQiYi May 20 officially opened the “Yuke” on-demand movie theater in Zhongshan, Guangdong, enabling consumers to select a movie online and watch it at a Yuke theater. The six-seat theaters include Dolby audio, reclined seating and other enhanced features not available in the typical Chinese household.

China is one of the largest film production countries in the world generating nearly a thousand films annually. In 2017, a total of 970 films were produced, yet only 487 of them were played in theaters, according to iQiYi. As the national income level continues to rise in China, consumer demand for cinema viewing is rising.

The company – which is owned by China’s online search giant Baidu and launched an IPO on Wall Street earlier this year – said it working to bring Yuke movie theaters to first- and second-tier cities throughout China.

“The development of on-demand movie theaters poses an exciting opportunity to increase the strength and overall scale of China’s film industry,” Yang Xianghua, SVP at iQiYi, said in a statement. “[We] will take advantage of our strong brand awareness, massive user base, popular content and advanced technology to contribute to the growth of this booming market and extend our premium viewing experience to offline consumers.”

At the end of March, iQiYi had 61.3 million subscribers. Going forward, iQiYi said it would combine online and offline subscriber bases to integrate retail services and offline consumption with related merchandise for purchase in cinemas.