AMC theaters reopening soon, but Hollywood still reeling from pandemic

AMC plans to reopen at least 100 of its movie theaters in the U.S. next week and will have most theaters open by early September 3, the chain said in a message to customers. 

Theaters that don’t reopen are in areas where state and local governments have prevented them from doing so, AMC said. “The remaining AMC locations will open after we get further clearance from state and local authorities that it is safe to do so,” the chain’s message to A-List members read.

The chain has about 600 AMC theaters and is the largest movie theater chain in the U.S., The Hill reported, but all of them have been closed since March because of the pandemic. Some of AMC’s international theaters began reopening in June as the coronavirus outbreak receded in those areas.

Previous plans to reopen in June and July were pushed back because of new case spikes in many states. But theaters have another problem to deal with: major new releases are being delayed or released for on-demand streaming until studios are sure enough theaters will reopen to make a profit.

Theaters may reopen, but will studios OK major releases?

Nearly all major theatrical releases have been either delayed until September or October, or released to streaming platforms rather than waiting for theaters to open back up. Most notably, Disney made the decision to release its live-action Mulan to Disney+ on September 4 for an additional $29.99 Premier Access fee rather than release it to theaters.

Tom Hanks’ Greyhound, while already a smaller release, was also sold to Apple for $70 million so it could be released to Apple TV+.

For now, AMC has announced that it plans to show a mix of classic movies and new releases. It remains to be seen whether Hollywood will take a chance on new releases when theaters can only hold 30% of previous capacity because of social distancing guidelines.

Then again, it just may mean waiting a little bit longer to see desired films, since theaters are generally packed when films first come out and empty by the end of the run. The end result at 30% capacity could be pretty much the same.

Huge losses for movie and television industries

By some estimates, the movie industry had already lost $17 billion in revenue worldwide by the end of May because of the shutdowns, and IndieWire reported that worldwide box office could be down 60% in 2020.

Most television shows have also gone on hiatus since their filming schedules were disrupted by the pandemic and have not yet resumed.

Film and TV production was allowed to resume on June 12 in California, but how are shows supposed to shoot scenes when everyone is required to wear masks and social distance?

But hopefully, the reopening of AMC theaters will spur more activity in Hollywood and signal a return to more normalcy in the entertainment industry, or it’s going to be a long, boring fall.

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