AMC Theatres, which is America’s largest movie theater chain, has announced a new ‘social distancing’ initiative that will see the chain cut its theater capacity in half beginning on March 14, and continuing through April 30.
Regal Cinemas has just enacted the same measure, as has Canadian exhibitor Cineplex, which operates nearly 1,700 auditoriums up north. Meanwhile, Alamo Drafthouse is similarly “deactivating” sections of seats. Expect other theater chains to follow suit in the coming hours.
This is a necessary measure that will keep people from being stacked on top of each other, should they choose to go to the movies in the first place. Given the number of streaming options these days, a trip to the theater doesn’t seem worth it to me, but that’s the beauty of America — free will. If you aren’t worried about contracting (or spreading) the coronavirus, then by all means, head to the theater knowing it will be half as full, at most.
People are, of course, still going to the movies, as Sony’s Vin Diesel actioner Bloodshot took in $1.2 million on Thursday night. Now, let’s just say that Bloodshot was the latest Marvel movie, and millions of people were willing to jeopardize their own health and the safety of others in order to see it. In that instance, AMC would put half of the crowd in a separate auditorium, and it wouldn’t be hard to plan for, since the chain would be able to predict where ticket demand lies.
If an auditorium has a capacity of 300 seats, AMC will cap ticket sales at 150. For theaters with, say, 600 or 700 seats, the ticket sales wouldn’t be capped at 300 or 350, but rather, 250 seats, which appears to be the maximum number of audience members AMC is willing to allow right now. The chain plans to comply with all state and federal directives regarding mass gatherings.
AMC management also said that “high-touch point areas” such as ticket kiosks, counter tops, restroom areas, glass, handrails and doorknobs will be cleaned at least once per hour, in addition to each auditorium in between every showtime.
“The health and safety of our guests and theatre teams are of the utmost importance to AMC. Therefore, AMC is proactively taking action to cut in half the number of tickets that we will make available at all our U.S. theatres. With this action, we are facilitating the ‘social distance’ between guests who still want to see movies on a big screen,” said Adam Aron, president/CEO of AMC Theatres. “These are uncharted times in the United States. We are very closely monitoring the guidance of the CDC. We are complying with all directives from federal, state and local health and government authorities, and with our unilateral move to reduce capacity and increase social distancing we are going beyond what governments are requiring of us. Founded in 1920, AMC Theatres has a proud history that spans 100 years. As we enter our second century, AMC remains firmly committed to offering a clean, healthy, entertaining environment every time our guests come to movies at our theatres.”
Studios have already been proactive in delaying films, with Disney shelving Mulan, The New Mutants and Antlers, MGM pulling its James Bond movie No Time to Die, and Paramount delaying A Quiet Place Part II and The Lovebirds. Universal’s animated movie Trolls World Tour remains the only major studio film on the release schedule before Disney is slated to release Marvel’s Black Widow (the real test here), and given how fluid the situation is, even that is subject to change. The National Association of Theatre Owners has already decided to cancel its annual CinemaCon event, and you can read more about that decision right here.