It hasn’t been necessary to go to a movie theater to enjoy great films for a long time. As technology has progressed, more and more people are likely to have a large flat-screen television at home, along with an internet connection through which they can stream almost any film or television series of their choosing. For a lot of people, a cozy night in at home with food, drink, and a good film had replaced the weekly or two-weekly trip to the movie theater long before the pandemic struck and brought the cinema industry to its knees.
The one exception to all of this is brand new films. It takes months between the date a new film is released to movie theaters, and the date that the same film eventually arrives on streaming services. This is how movie theaters are still able to make money in the 2020s – they have a captive audience who can’t see their films anywhere else, and they load up on ticket prices and food and drink prices to keep their business sustainable. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been possible this year due to circumstances that the writers of even the most far-fetched horror films couldn’t have foreseen. Movie theaters are closed, audiences aren’t there to sustain them, and many of them are staring the prospect of bankruptcy in the face. AMC, one of the biggest names in world cinema, isn’t immune to that financial reality. One particularly gloomy projection says that it will run out of money by the end of 2021 if things don’t improve immediately.
While it’s still not possible for AMC to re-open its movie theaters in the vast majority of territories, the company hasn’t given up on the idea of allowing members of the public in to see the latest Hollywood releases on the big screen. It’s just that only a very small number of members of the public will be permitted entry. To be more specific, we’re talking about just you, and a small party of your friends. AMC might be closed to the public, but they’re still technically allowed to accept private bookings. That means you could be back in the movie theater next week – with one small catch. You have to pay for the rental of the entire screen. That’s going to cost you one hundred dollars if you want to watch something from the archives, with a list of seventeen classic movies on offer, including “Jurassic Park,” and a range of Christmas films to take advantage of the season. If you want to watch a more recent release, you might be asked to pay anything up to $350 – and that’s not including tax.
While the cost might sound high, it’s not as expensive when it’s split between the maximum number of people allowed in for a single sitting. During limited tests that have been carried out during the past four weeks, AMC has been allowing bookings for a maximum of twenty people, all of whom have to wear masks for the duration of the film and must observe social distancing guidelines while on the premises. If you’re able to persuade 19 of your family and friends to come along with you, that $350 bill comes down to $17.50 each, which is much more reasonable – although tax would obviously push that higher. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a special date night of the kind that’s hard to come by during a pandemic, getting a whole movie screen for just yourself and your partner might make for a memorable occasion so long as you’re willing to spend at least $100 to make it happen.
There will presumably be plenty of people willing to take advantage of the new offer because they’re missing their regular cinema nights, but the desperate need for AMC and other movie theater companies to make money has existed long before the pandemic struck. What’s happening to movie theaters now is similar to what started happening to casinos fifteen years ago. Brick-and-mortar casinos were blindsided by the arrival of online slots websites like KongCasino.com. In the early going, companies that operated casinos didn’t believe that the gambling public would trust or embrace online slots or digital gambling games, so they carried on as normal. Before long, they were forced to face a new reality in which online slots websites made a lot more money than they did. Nowadays, casinos have to think outside the box and diversify their offerings so they can present customers with attractions that online slots websites can’t come up with. Netflix and other TV and film streaming services have done the same to movie theaters, and initiatives like this are the kind of thing that companies like AMC now have to come up with to stay afloat.
After its successful trial, AMC hopes that its new offer will start attracting paying customers in big numbers sooner rather than later. Its third-quarter losses this year, which were reported a little over a week ago, have reached nine hundred million dollars. The company’s executives have admitted that they need to raise cash to stave off the threat of bankruptcy and have made twenty million class A shares available for a total price of fifty million dollars in an attempt to bring in fresh capital. The scary thing for the movie theater industry as a whole is that AMC is one of the biggest companies and has very deep pockets. Similar companies that didn’t have as much cash in the bank to begin with must be in much worse shape, and it’s far from guaranteed that all of them will re-open when they eventually receive the all-clear to do so.
The long-term health of the cinema industry will depend on what can be done to get people back inside theaters as quickly as possible to spend money on films. We can probably expect the prices of drinks and popcorn to increase again when they do. Until then, if you have time and money on your hands and there’s a film you’ve been desperately wanting to see on the big screen, AMC has your back. Private rentals are available across the United States of America effective immediately, with locations in the rest of the world expected to follow suit before the start of December.