Struggling AMC Theatres, the nation's largest movie theater chain and a key traffic generator at retail centers, has pushed back the opening of its U.S. cinemas by two weeks to July 30 after studios, including Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros., delayed openings of highly anticipated new releases that AMC is counting on to remain financially viable.
AMC Theatres, based in Leawood, Kansas, said it now plans to reopen about 450 U.S. locations on July 30 instead of the previously announced July 15. It expects to open an additional 150 cinemas the following month.
"Barring further complications from the coronavirus outbreak, AMC expects to be open at essentially its full complement of approximately 1,000 theatres globally by early August," the company said in a statement Monday.
The expected summer openings come as AMC Theatres, which operates 11,000 screens globally as part of China-based conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, struggles with a difficult financial situation created by coronavirus-forced shutdowns in mid-March.
AMC said the closings essentially shut off all revenue for the company, causing "substantial doubt" it can viably remain in business after losing as much as $2.4 billion in the first quarter, according to financial filings. The company said its future depends on factors including the pace of reopenings and the timing of movie releases as the film production industry remains in shutdown mode.
As coronavirus cases climb in many regions, studios have delayed the release of major films in hopes of premiering them at a time when they can draw in the largest audiences possible. Among them, Warner Bros. announced delays several times this month for the release of its anticipated blockbusters "Tenant" and "Wonder Woman 1984."
The effects are industrywide. Theater closings have spurred the layoff and furloughs of thousands of theater industry employees nationwide, with some now coming back to work at the major national and regional chains.
Rival theater chain Regal Cinemas, part of Cineworld Group, plans to start reopening theaters July 10 at half-capacity with a mostly older lineup of movies, such as "Jurassic Park," "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" and "Black Panther."
Another big chain, Cinemark, began phased reopenings in several cities on June 19, with capacity restrictions and other measures based on local health regulations.
AMC has said its U.S. theaters are expected to reopen at 30% capacity with enhanced hygiene and distancing protocols, and customers are expected to wear masks.
"Our theatre general managers across the U.S. started working full time again today and are back in their theatres gearing up to get their buildings fully ready just a few weeks from now for moviegoers," said CEO Adam Aron in a statement, noting the company is devoting "extraordinary resources" into safety and sanitation efforts ahead of planned reopenings.