COVID-19

Reopening movie theaters face 2 questions

Jasmine Garsd Aug 20, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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A customer purchases popcorn at a reopened movie theater in Las Vegas last week. Will audiences feel safe enough to return in droves? Ethan Miller/Getty Images
COVID-19

Reopening movie theaters face 2 questions

Jasmine Garsd Aug 20, 2020
A customer purchases popcorn at a reopened movie theater in Las Vegas last week. Will audiences feel safe enough to return in droves? Ethan Miller/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY


Movie theaters are reopening in states across the country, which is good news for brands like AMC and Regal, who’ve been hard hit by the pandemic. 

Theaters are promising heightened hygiene, capped capacity and better ventilation. But will audiences go for it? 

Pretty soon, Shannon Faye Gallegos will boldly go where almost no man has gone … for the last five months or so: the movie theater. She lives in Texas, and now that theaters are reopening, she’s ready.

“I have to live. So I need to see what’s in the theater, and I want a big bucket of popcorn,” she said, laughing.

Movie theaters have been suffering. Last quarter, AMC lost over half a billion dollars. 

Now, those big chains are hoping there are more people out there like Gallegos. But that doesn’t solve the other big issue: what to show. 

“If you look at the long term, we will not have content coming out soon because content is completely closed down,” said Arun Sharma, a professor of marketing at the University of Miami. “So we will suddenly have this imbalance of having theaters but no content.”

Many theaters will be showing older titles. The new Russell Crowe movie, “Unhinged,” is widely considered a test case for the reopening. And in September, there’s “Tenet,” a much-awaited sci-fi thriller the industry is pinning its hopes on.

Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore, a media analytics company, said what cinemas are showing will only be part of the appeal.

“It’s not gonna be about how good is the movie?” he said. “It’s going to be more about, are there protocols for health and safety in place?”

“In this time it just seems like an unnecessary risk,” said Brianna Stimpson in New Jersey. She said watching a movie is one of the easiest things to recreate at home. “It’s not a bar, it’s not a concert. It’s just sitting there and watching a movie.”

Like many, she’s ready to dip her hand in a popcorn bag … but, in the safety of her home.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are people still waiting for unemployment payments?

Yes. There is no way to know exactly how many people have been waiting for months and are still not getting unemployment, because states do not have a good system in place for tracking that kind of data, according to Andrew Stettner of The Century Foundation. But by his own calculations, only about 60% of people who have applied for benefits are currently receiving them. That means there are millions still waiting. Read more here on what they are doing about it.

Are we going to see another wave of grocery store shortages?

Well, public health officials are warning that we could see a second wave of the virus before the end of the year. And this time retailers want to be prepared if there’s high demand for certain products. But they can’t rely totally on predictive modeling. People’s shopping habits have ebbed and flowed depending on the state of COVID-19 cases or lockdowns. So, grocers are going to have to trust their guts.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out Tuesday from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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