AMC Theatres, the largest movie theater chain in North America, has warned that they may have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy by the end of the year if theater attendance continues its free fall.
With over 8,000 theaters, AMC Theatres has by far the most locations in the United States. Regal Entertainment Group, which currently has over 7,100 locations, recently closed their theaters once again temporarily, due to the lack of new films coming to theaters, and dwindling attendance that made staying open economically unfeasible.
AMC Theatres began reopening some of their locations on August 20 after five months of closure and offered 15-cent tickets to visitors. However, with many major studios shifting their upcoming release dates to 2021, staying open just isn’t a viable option for most theaters. For example, number one at the box office last year at this time was Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, which made close to $37 million domestically in its opening weekend. If one totaled the entire box-office revenue from this past weekend, it would be less than Maleficent: Mistress of Evil made this same weekend last year.
In order to get audiences back to theaters, companies like AMC Theatres have shown a mixture of older releases and whatever new releases they can pull together that aren’t available on streaming services. This weekend, the top three films at the box-office were Liam Neeson’s Honest Thief, at number one with $4.1 million, with Robert DeNiro’s The War with Grandpa, and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet rounding out the top three. Further down the line, the top films of the past weekend are filled with rereleases of films like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Hocus Pocus, Coco, and The Empire Strikes Back.
Yet AMC Theatres have been trying their best to adapt in this uncertain time. After AMC Theatres proclaimed that they would no longer show films from Universal Studios after the studio decided to abandon theatrical release for Trolls: World Tour and release the film directly on video-on-demand services. However soon after, AMC Theatres signed a deal with Universal Studios that would allow new releases to make their video-on-demand debut only three weeks after their theatrical debut. The previous plan had been for studios to wait between 75-90 days before home release.
AMC Theatres has also begun offering patrons the opportunity to rent out theaters for their own private showings. Starting at $99, up to 20 people can rent out their own theater. Older films like Monsters, Inc., Jurassic Park, and Shrek are available at the $99 price, while newer releases like Tenet, The Honest Thief, and The War with Grandpa start at $150 and can go up to as much as $349.
After announcing their financial situation on Tuesday, AMC Theatres stock fell 14% and that without additional money, their current $418 million cash position would run out by the end of this year or by early 2021. AMC Theatres plans to sell up to 15 million shares of their stock and sell assets to stay afloat.
If AMC Theatres files for bankruptcy and does close all of their locations, it will be a dire situation for all other, smaller theater chains. With studios fine with pushing their releases until the theater experience is safer, or moving their films to streaming services, this could, unfortunately, be the end of theaters as we know it if the situation doesn’t change soon.