Movies & Cinema during the Pandemic? Catch-all Discussion

Wayne_j

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I just got back from the drive in seeing The Wretched and The Invisible Man. Not nearly as many people as it seems like was there last Sunday when Adam was there but the crowd still wasn't small. They were just showing less family friendly films.
 

Jeff Adkins

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Looks like Cinemark will be the first of the big 3 theater chains to open. They are starting with 5 theaters in Texas on June 19. A week later they plan on having 1/3 of their theaters open. They expect to have all theaters open by July 10.



 

Jeff Adkins

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Jake Lipson

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I love movie theaters. I miss them and I want to be able to go back to them safely. However, I don't understand what the rush is. I know Christopher Nolan loves the theatrical experience and he wants his movie to be able to save theaters. I get it. It hurts me to have them closed as well. However, if there is a second outbreak of the virus traced to movie theaters being open, the damage to the industry from that would be exponentially worse than waiting a while longer to reopen. In the short term I understand the theaters wanting to be open so they can generate some revenue, but they need to be thinking more about the long game and that's what I think is missing here.

One of my other passions is live theater, which is also in an extended intermission at the moment. Broadway is now permitting refunds and exchanges through September 6, and those involved have made clear that they expect this to go on longer than that. But they also understand that they have one shot to reopen, so if they have to wait until sometime next year at the earliest to reopen, then so be it. They're focused on making sure that when they come back, their business is sustainable. I do think/hope that movie theaters will be able to resume before live performances do, but I wish the studios and theater owners would take this more long-range view, because I think the short one could cause more problems.
 
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Wayne_j

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This weekend my local Drive In is showing Trolls World Tour and Jumanji the Next Level.
 

Josh Steinberg

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The word on the street here is that Broadway isn’t coming back until first quarter 2021 at the earliest - it’s just for the complicated financial, technical and legal processes that it takes to cancel tickets and whatnot that it’s easier for them to do it on a rolling, wait and see basis.

AMC said this week that they don’t know if they can survive much longer. And because of the way the shutdown was handled in terms of what the government did and didn’t do, they’ve been on the hook for rent every moment they’ve been closed. Nevermind that landlords didn’t exactly have potential tenants lining up to rent spaces custom designed to show movies and the absurdity of the whole thing; they’re losing money every moment and the crushing weight of that may be too much to endure.

Nolan’s desire to open now may in part be tied to his knowledge of the exhibition industry and his understanding that these businesses are in trouble.

Short of freezing rent obligations and tax obligations until it is safe to reopen, for which there does not appear to be any widespread political will to do for any businesses or individuals, these businesses may be facing the perilous choice of opening now and taking their chances or not being able to reopen at all.

....which strikes me as a systemic failure and not a fault of any one business.
 

Jake Lipson

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The word on the street here is that Broadway isn’t coming back until first quarter 2021 at the earliest - it’s just for the complicated financial, technical and legal processes that it takes to cancel tickets and whatnot that it’s easier for them to do it on a rolling, wait and see basis.
Right, which makes sense. As we get further and further away from the time that Broadway shut down, there should be less tickets to refund anyway, except perhaps for the big shows like Hamilton or The Music Man where you have to buy really far in advance. My point was more that they are not in a hurry to reopen, as opposed to movie theaters which seem to want to be open with new product as soon as possible. Incidentally, a theatre near me which books Broadway national tours decided to begin selling new season subscriptions for next season this week, even including shows that are scheduled for the fall and are obviously not going to occur. I can't figure that decision out. Even though they probably want money now to stay afloat, they'll just have to refund it in a few months, which creates more work for them.

Nolan’s desire to open now may in part be tied to his knowledge of the exhibition industry and his understanding that these businesses are in trouble.
Of course they are. But if Tenet actually opens in July and then a couple weeks later there is a major uptick in coronavirus cases which can be traced back to movie theaters, THAT is a WAY worse scenario because that essentially guarantees people won't feel comfortable returning. Remember when China let a small handful of theaters open for a day or two a couple months ago? And then the government changed their minds and closed everything again. That sort of thing sends a mixed message to the potential moviegoing public about when it is safe. And I'm not saying that China is exactly like us because there, the government controls everything about when individual movies can open even when the world is not in the middle of a pandemic. But I do think that the impact on the industry of opening too early would be devastating on a whole other level than what they are experiencing now. As of yet, I don't know of anyone who actually got the virus from going to a movie theater, mostly because they are largely closed. But if that starts happening, that's going to be the narrative that follows movie theaters around, and how would they ever recover from such a thing?
 
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jcroy

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AMC said this week that they don’t know if they can survive much longer. And because of the way the shutdown was handled in terms of what the government did and didn’t do, they’ve been on the hook for rent every moment they’ve been closed. Nevermind that landlords didn’t exactly have potential tenants lining up to rent spaces custom designed to show movies and the absurdity of the whole thing ...
If the landlords can convince the city to rezone, they might have other plans. For example, such as bulldozing down entire old lots of buildings (might be theaters/multiplexes), and building something else on the property.
 

Jeff Adkins

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Personally, I find wearing a mask very uncomfortable. I have been out of the house exactly twice in the past two months for errands that were unavoidable, and I wore one for both of those because those outings were essential. Otherwise, I have stayed home. If the choice is going to a theater wearing a mask or staying home and waiting for the Blu-ray, I would opt for the latter every time. I understand the necessity of masks at this time but would find it difficult to do that for the entire duration of a movie. As much as I love the theater, I want to be comfortable when I go there, and that does not mean a mask. So I'll just stay home until it's safe to do that again without one.

As has already been mentioned, the theaters won't want you to wear a mask when they open up because they are going to want to sell you food. As we all know, the studio takes a substantial chunk of the money from ticket sales, and heavily marked-up concessions are where the theaters make most of their money. If they were to open up just to screen films without being able to sell concessions, I don't really think that would make any financial sense for them to do.
You are correct. Cinemark announced they will not be requiring masks of guests.

 

Jake Lipson

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Cinemark announced they will not be requiring masks of guests.
I don't see how this could possibly be enforced in a dark room, so this isn't a surprise to me. Theaters already have trouble regulating things like use of phones and screaming children. Masks won't be any easier to control..

Incidentally, my arthouse (which is not a Cinemark) has said that they will require masks when guests are in the lobby, but not in the auditorium. Again, they want to be able to sell food, and you can't eat food while wearing a mask.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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If AMC does liquidate, it doesn't necessarily mean all of its theaters go away. One policy is that AMC's competitors might buy large swathes of them up during bankruptcy proceedings. Another possibility, now that the Department of Justice is actively working to dismantle the Paramount decrees that have prohibited vertical integration since 1948, is that one of the movie studios or perhaps a streaming outlet like Netflix or Amazon buys the chain.
 

Jake Lipson

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It’s all so sad.
I'm not sad for AMC at all.

I would be sad for their ground-level employees, but the giant cooperation AMC would get no tears from me whatsoever in the event of a closure. Karma is a five-letter word I won't print here.
 

TravisR

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You are correct. Cinemark announced they will not be requiring masks of guests.

That's fucking crazy. Forgetting the obvious safety issues, it's going to keep a sizeable amount of people away that are willing to go to a theater if it's an environment where the theaters is at least trying to be safe. I realize some people are going to be jerks and ignore a mask rule once they're in the theater no matter what but not making it a requirement (while not eating anyway) is a huge mistake. I might as well go to one of those nitwit rallies where guys hold assault rifles and scream about tyranny because they can't get a haircut.
 
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jcroy

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If the landlords can convince the city to rezone, they might have other plans. For example, such as bulldozing down entire old lots of buildings (might be theaters/multiplexes), and building something else on the property.
In the case of huge multiplex theaters in a "dead mall" or a mall with very little to no foot traffic, in principle the landlords can try to convince the city to rezone the property for a giant warehouse leased to amazon or another giant online retailer. This might happen very easily if amazon buys up a huge theater chain in a bankruptcy liquidation auction.


:ph34r:
 

Sam Favate

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I'm troubled by the danger AMC is in. For the record, I don't like AMC. They redesigned their theaters in the last few years that relegated wheelchair users to the back row (my 11-year-old son uses a wheelchair), and I think that's just wrong - especially when they used to have wheelchair seats in the rows in the center of the theater (on the end of the aisles). They even (in some theaters, not all) got rid of the ramps that went down the aisle and replaced them with fucking stairs! They might as well say "Wheelchair users not wanted!"(Last winter, I took my sons to the movies, and the ramp into the theater was not plowed. I pushed the wheelchair through the snow, and went right up to the Guest Services desk, showed them the snow caked up on the tires and told them they ought to have it shoveled now. By the time we came out, it was.)

That said, where I live (about 20 miles west of New York City), there are only three theaters in a 20 minute radius: Two of them are AMC multiplexes and one is the last remaining Main Street theater (owned by Bow Tie Cinemas) which only has four smaller screens. So, if AMC goes away, where do I go to the movies? Bow Tie is nice, but it'll never handle all the traffic that being the only theater will bring. In the last few years, two other Bow Ties on Main Streets in the towns next to me (on either side) closed. (The one that had been closest to us, about 5 minutes away, was bought by a developer. When residents complained that they were taking away the only theater in town, the developer said "Don't worry - it will be replaced by something great!" Nearly three years later, it sits vacant, with the empty marquee looming above the street.)

I grew up in a town just across the river from New York. When I was a small child, we had a beautiful theater on Broadway (our Main Street); it had been built in the 20s. I saw Dumbo there in 1972, which was one of the last movies shown. It was torn down later that year for a McDonalds. About a block from my house was another theater, built in the early 40s. It wasn't as nice as the other one, but it was pretty big and it was cheap. Most shows were $1; I saw A LOT of movies there. It closed in 1981 to make way for a convenience store. There was another theater on the city line, in a strip mall, but it started showing porn in the 70s (it said it was the only way it could meet its financial obligations) and they'd sometimes show kids movies around the holidays (no one really went; I saw ET there in 1982). It closed in the early 80s. Fast forward to 2005, and a Franks Theaters multiplex opened, far away from the main drag, but it was nice (even if the air conditioner made it an ice box; seriously, you'd have to wear a jacket when it was 90 outside); that theater closed last year.

In the 24 years from when the theater down the block from me closed and the multiplex opened, my friends and I would travel 15 minutes to Secaucus (near the Lincoln Tunnel) where there were two multiplexes, both owned by Loews. Of course, AMC bought Loews (although I think someone else has since bought those). BTW, the theater where Brie Larson made a surprise appearance the weekend that Captain Marvel opened is in New Jersey, 10 minutes from New York. It's an AMC.

Why is it so hard to keep theaters open? AMC is the biggest theater operator in the country (by number of screens). If they go away, it will significantly hurt the movie business.

I'm also wondering how AMC could be $5 billion debt before the pandemic. The movie business grossed $11.5 billion in 2019. If AMC couldn't turn a profit in that year, maybe they deserve to be doomed.

Lastly, even if there is a buyer for AMC, they're not likely to invest even more money in the properties and undo the very bad recent redesign. Which goes to show you that one bad choice can linger for many years, and put off many customers (about 20% of the US population is disabled in some way).

The movie business is in serious trouble, folks.
 

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