wAMC has emerged as the first US movie theater chain to respond to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, with plans to reduce auditorium attendance by 50 percent of the standard level to promote social distancing, Deadline reports.
The chain, the largest in the country, will now only sell half the number of tickets per theater that it normally does, and any theater with more than 500 seats will be automatically capped at a max of 250 people. AMC is also having its theaters comply with local and federal restrictions on large gatherings and limiting ticket availability and screenings in certain auditoriums as a result.
“The health and safety of our guests and theatre teams are of the utmost importance to AMC. Therefore, AMC is proactively taking action to cut in half the number of tickets that we will make available at all our US theatres,” said Adam Aron, the AMC Theaters chief executive, in a statement. “With this action, who still want to see movies on a big screen.”
Following AMC’s announcement, competitor Regal Cinemas said it too was “reduced auditorium capacity by 50 percent and are complying, where applicable, with state mandates on social gathering limits,” according to Slashfilm.
The theater industry is far from the only US entertainment sector seeing a hit due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Production studios and distribution companies have begun delaying the releases of new films, including high-profile releases like Disney’s Mulan and the new James Bond film No Time to Die, out of fear that a severe drop in theater attendance will tank the box office success of big-budget projects. If future releases continue to get delayed, it may lead to even steeper drop-offs in attendance and potential partial or full movie theater closures.
The New York Times reported on Friday that Netflix has halted production on all TV series and films for the next two weeks. And late-night talk shows like NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night With Seth Meyers also suspended the taping of new episodes entirely, having briefly said they would try taping without a live audience, through the rest of the month.
Update March 13th, 6:21PM ET: Added details about Regal Cinemas following AMC Theaters in reducing theater attendance by half.