from the hard-pass dept
Even before COVID-19, the brick and mortar movie industry was already struggling to adapt in the face of technological evolution. Now with a pandemic demolishing theater attendance, companies like AMC Theaters face an accelerated timeline as they attempt to cling to outdated constructs like movie release windows, sticky floors, and seventeen dollar popcorn, which were already showing their age in the 4K streaming era.
Theater chains haven’t exactly been handling this pandemic thing all that well. When Comcast Universal began sending its movies straight to home streaming (you know, given that people don’t want to die), AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron threw an apoplectic fit, insisting his chain would never again show a Comcast/Universal movie. After apparently realizing he didn’t have any leverage to make those kinds of threats — and negotiating to get an unspecified cut of the proceeds — Aron and AMC agreed to a shorter 17-day release window. Baby steps, I guess.
It should go without saying that the scientific consensus is that the pandemic isn’t going anywhere, and the problems it’s creating are very likely to get worse as it collides with the traditional flu season this fall. Like so many who think they can just bull rush through factual reality and scientific consensus, AMC seems intent on opening a good chunk of its traditional theaters next week, and is hoping to draw crowds by offering 15 cent movie tickets on the first day:
“AMC Entertainment, which owns the chain, said Thursday that it expects to open the doors to more than 100 cinemas ? or about a sixth of its nationwide locations ? on Aug. 20 with throwback pricing for a day. AMC theaters have reopened in numerous international countries but have remained shuttered in the U.S. since March. The chain touted the reopening as ?Movies in 2020 at 1920 Prices.”
There’s innovating, and then there’s just denying the obvious. There’s creative adaptation, and then there’s business decisions that are literally putting people’s lives at risk by encouraging mass public indoor gatherings during an historic pandemic that largely spreads, you know, indoors. Yes, the risk is mitigated somewhat by the fact AMC is requiring people wear masks, but there’s obviously no guarantee your fellow theater patrons are going to comply, or that AMC will spend two hours and potential risk making employees enforce mask use in the dark.
Most of the films they’ll be showing (Grease, Black Panther, and Back to the Future) are already on home video, so I’m not sure how many folks will be willing to risk death and potential lifelong disability to watch reruns. But hey, this being America, I suppose anything is possible. With all sympathy to theater industry employees, it may be time for AMC Theaters to begin considering a much harder pivot into a business sector that doesn’t require denying obvious technological evolution and won’t kill or disable its target audience.