AMC movie theatres re-open with drastically reduced tickets, will anyone buy them?

Movie theatres are slowing re-opening but will anyone want to sit and watch an old release during a pandemic, even with tickets being sold at a dirt-cheap rate? So far some folks are ready and raring to go.

It’s been a long five months for moviegoers. Movie theatres were one of the early victims of the coronavirus pandemic. Now the public has to weigh the pros and cons of being a part of the paying moviegoing audience. And, does the public want to take a potential health risk to see a movie that they have likely already seen?

Like everything else in 2020, the coronavirus mucked up movie production so there are few new movies being released to theatres. It’s slim pickings so in order to entice patrons back, AMC is offering some oldies but goodies. They are betting on a viewing public desperate to get out of the house and enjoy a little entertainment, especially some family entertainment with the kids they’ve been locked down with and are driving their parents nuts trying to keep them entertained. You know it’s true.

AMC is re-opening theatres in some states. August 20 was chosen to celebrate the movie chain’s 100th birthday. In honor of the celebration, ticket prices were slashed to 15 cents, for one day only. That was the price of a ticket in 1920. Friday and the rest of the re-opening weekend, the price of a ticket goes up to $5.00 apiece.

More than 100 AMC locations are scheduled to reopen Aug. 20, including in areas across Georgia, Texas, Connecticut, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Massachusetts, Indiana, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Minnesota, Ohio, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, Kansas and Oklahoma, as well as Washington, DC.

Some of the movies being shown on the 15-cent day include throwbacks like Inception, Black Panther, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Grease and Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Once the 100th anniversary pricing concludes, those movies will be priced at $5 per ticket.

The reopening is the first step in AMC’s phased plan for the US. It aims to have 600 theaters, or two-thirds of its operations, open by Sept. 3 in time for the launch of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which has been repeatedly delayed due to COVID-19. The rest of its theaters will reopen when state and local officials give the go-ahead.

AMC had previously planned to reopen in July but pushed back its reopening again last month citing delays in movie release dates. Some of the year’s biggest movies have been continually delayed, including DC’s Wonder Woman, which is now scheduled to launch in October; Disney’s Mulan, which has been pushed to August; and Marvel’s Black Widow, now set for November.

In 2020, your decision on whether or not to go ahead and go back to the movies may depend on your political leanings, if you believe what the media reports. Like everything else during the plague, movie attendance has a political component.

A majority of Republicans say they would feel comfortable flying on an airplane, eating indoors in a restaurant or seeing a movie in a theater. Large majorities of Democrats and political independents say they would not.

“The degree to which Republicans are more comfortable than both Democrats and independents is quite jarring,” said Laura Wronski, a research scientist for SurveyMonkey. “It appears that people are living in quite different realities.”

The CDC states on its website that there are examples of activities and situations that can increase your risk of exposure to COVID-19 and going to the movies is one of those activities. The reasoning is that this is one of the activities where people are exposed to others in a crowd, therefore a preventable way of limiting exposure is to stay out of crowds.

Going to a movie is different now. Masks are mandatory in the theatre, except while eating or drinking. Theatres are only selling to 30% of capacity and limiting showings to 2 per day to allow time for cleaning to be done properly. Showtimes are staggered to prevent people from congregating in the lobby area. Concessions are cash only sales, but patrons can order online and are simply handed their purchases when they show up at the theatre.

Epidemiologists and health experts are worried that air conditioning units like the ones in movie theaters can push infected droplets around enclosed spaces, a concern because of the likelihood that some people will take off their face masks once the lights go down. AMC has installed new air filtration systems to slow the spread of the disease.

So, do you think people will go? Industry experts are expecting a strong opening weekend but hesitate to predict a quick return to normal.

“I suspect we’ll see a surge of activity opening weekend and if all goes without incident, a very slow return to normal. Like months, not weeks,” Bock said. “Of course, if multiple, traceable outbreaks occur, we’ll definitely be looking at (premium video on demand) for the foreseeable future until we wrangle this virus.”

Experts don’t know any more than the rest of us. I haven’t been a regular moviegoer for several years. I think it’s way more comfortable to watch at home in my comfortable chair and enjoying popcorn that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg per bag. Movies were going to streaming services quickly before the pandemic and now even more so. Best of all, at home, I don’t have to wear a mask.