February 24, 2021
New York governor Andrew Cuomo gave the okay for movie theaters to open beginning March 5 for a maximum of 50 people per screening, a capacity of 25 percent. This marks the first time that movie theaters there have opened in almost a year. Theaters must use advanced air filtration systems, while attendees are required to wear masks and sit in their assigned seats. State theaters outside New York City have reopened over the last few months based on lower COVID-19 infection numbers. In reaction to the news, AMC Entertainment stock rose 16 percent.
The Verge reports that, “allowing New York City theaters to open is a big deal, especially for studios like Disney and Universal, whose executives are likely worried about timing for upcoming big releases like ‘Black Widow’ (May 7th) and ‘F9’ (May 28th).”
New York and California “make up 21.5 percent of all U.S. filmgoing audiences,” so their closure has been “catastrophic for movies that could potentially make $1 billion in pre-pandemic days.” Cuomo’s move is a “win” for theater owners who have asked him and California governor Gavin Newsom to reopen theaters.
In addition to New York City theater openings, movie-going is rebounding in “markets like China, one of Marvel Studios’ most important demographics, and ‘Black Widow’ could break even — potentially even earning a slight profit.”
With another big budget feature, “Wonder Woman 1984,” Warner Bros. simultaneously released the movie in theaters and HBO Max, which boosted sign-ups for the latter platform to an accumulated 17.2 million. That film ended up bringing in $159.9 million, of which about 73 percent came from outside the U.S.
As theaters open, now owners will find out if people spooked by the pandemic will feel safe enough to be in a theater.
Deadline reports that “Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter called the announcement by Cuomo a ‘ray of light’ for AMC, whose NYC locations are among its highest performing theaters.” “We view this as an incredibly positive announcement both for movie theaters in that city that have been closed for nearly a year as well as for the entire industry in bringing stability back to the upcoming film slate,” said Eric Wold, senior analyst at B. Riley Securities.
California governor Newsom also “appears more flexible in reopening the state,” with San Francisco theaters likely to reopen before those in Los Angeles “as infection rates improve further.” Newsom stated that a “substantial” number of counties will be able to loosen restrictions soon.
Wall Street and “industry players” noted that movie theater attendance has been “solid” in China, Japan and Australia.