AMC Theatres is pushing back its reopening by two weeks after movie studios further delayed two summer blockbuster premieres that could be key to getting people to come back to theaters.
The decision comes as several states are considering or reimplementing some coronavirus shutdown measures as cases surge in much of the country.
The theater chain had planned to begin a multi-phase reopening on July 15, with the goal of being fully operational by July 24. Now, AMC will begin the reopening process with 450 US theaters on July 30, and aims to have nearly all 600 of its US theaters fully up and running by "early August," the company said Monday.
The new timeline will mean AMC theaters will be reopened in time for the August 12 release of Warner Bros' "Tenet" and the August 21 release of Disney's "Mulan." Both movies have been repeatedly delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic (Warner Bros and CNN share the same parent company, WarnerMedia).
"We continue to devote extraordinary resources into our plan to operate our theatres with a hyper commitment to the safety and health of our guests and associates," CEO Adam Aron said in a statement.
The US theaters are the final phase of the company's global reopening — locations in Europe and the Middle East either reopened in June or will reopen in July.
AMC closed all of its theaters on March 17 because of the pandemic, and the shutdown has taken a massive toll on its business. Earlier this month, the theater chain said it had "substantial doubt" about its ability to remain in business following the closures. The company reported a net loss of $2.17 billion in its first quarter.
So getting customers back in theater seats, and ensuring they feel safe being there, is crucial for AMC.
The company has implemented a health and sanitation program called "AMC Safe & Clean," which includes initially capping movie showtimes at 30% seating capacity and cleaning every theater between showtimes, among other measures.
AMC provoked some backlash from customers earlier this month when it said guests would be "strongly" encouraged to wear masks in US theaters in areas where local government restrictions don't require them. The company then reversed course and said it would require all US customers to wear masks while in the theaters.
"(Customers) wanted us to require masks," Aron said in an interview with CNN's Richard Quest last week. "We put out a revised policy requiring masks in all our theaters in the United States, and that pleased our guests and, of course, that is a safer way to go."
Aron also suggested that AMC is feeling somewhat better about its financial prospects as the company reopens, despite the fact that it will have to limit capacity in US theaters.
"Financially, we think we can do just fine because the reality is that movie theaters aren't all that full, actually, in normal times," Aron said in the interview. "We only fill between 15% and 20% of our seats. So if we limit the number of seats that we sell, we actually can survive economically."