We’ve spent a lot of time over the past year following the efforts of AMC Theaters and others to try and keep movie theaters going during the course of the coronavirus pandemic. By and large, it’s not going well. Regal Cinemas closed all of its locations back in October; and now, according to Variety, AMC Theaters is looking like it may have to do the same. There’s a lot of numbers and money involved, but the short explanation is, they’re fucked.
This doesn’t really come as a surprise, unfortunately. We reported a few months ago that AMC Theaters was very publicly telling anyone who would listen that it was in bad shape, and running out of cash. Now, that day has come: The company states, “In the absence of additional liquidity, the Company anticipates that existing cash resources will be depleted during January 2021.” There are several reasons listed as to the reason for this dire situation (delays in the release of major films, the move to streaming services, etc.), but honestly, there’s just one reason: We’re currently enduring the worst and most brutal spike in COVID-19 cases in the entire run of the pandemic, and things are only projected to get worse in the short term. People aren’t going to theaters, nor should they.
But hey, the first vaccine was approved; hope is on the horizon. It’s just not soon enough to rescue the industry. AMC Theaters reports it would require about $750 million to keep going beyond next month. While there are plenty of other industries in distress as well, it’s worth noting it didn’t have to come to this. Any reasonable country could have taken steps to mitigate much of the economic bleeding: Rent and tax freezes, deferred payments, additional loans, temporary nationalization of beleagured areas of the economy...and, of course, debt relief being the number-one factor making a difference around the world. Unfortunately, this is America, where fidelity to an abstract and blinkered ideology of capitalism is more important than the actual functioning of an economy. So, much like one out of every four Americans, the pandemic is going to wreak havoc on movie theaters, and our government is probably going to officially recommend they pull themselves up by the bootstraps and stop being so lazy.
As of last month, 404 of AMC’s 594 U.S. theaters are open and operating at reduced capacity. Attendance has dropped 92% since this time last year, which is good for public health, bad for business. Barring federal government intervention, AMC Theaters is going away. So fucking intervene already.