The film industry’s biggest awards have been delayed by the pandemic in a year when most cinemas were closed.
AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. plans to have nearly all of its U.S. theaters open by Friday, marking a symbolic milestone for a chain that skirted bankruptcy during the depths of the pandemic.
The last remaining theaters it has left to reopen are mostly in Southern California, where a surge in cases prevented health officials from recommending cinemas resume work. With those screens coming back, 98% of AMC’s U.S. theaters will be operating by March 19, with 99% online by the following week, AMC said in a statement Wednesday.
The reopening comes after the cinema chain’s toughest year ever, in which AMC repeatedly came close to filing for Chapter 11 and saw most major new films delayed because of the pandemic. The Leawood, Kansas-based company lost $4.6 billion in 2020. It came up with a rescue package early in the year that allowed it to survive for most of 2021, even if the business doesn’t improve.
“It was exactly one year ago that we closed all AMC locations in the United States,” Chief Executive Officer Adam Aron said in the statement. With the focus now on reopening, AMC is “operating with the highest devotion to the health and safety,” he said.
All 23 locations of AMC’s locations in Los Angeles County, the largest moviegoing market in the U.S., will be operational by Friday. And all but two of its 54 California locations will reopened by March 22.
Reopened theaters will still have capacity restrictions to allow customers to social distance. In both New York and Los Angeles, officials have said auditoriums can only be 25% full, while the theater has implemented other changes like requiring visitors to wear masks.
International locations are reopening at a slower pace. About 30% of AMC’s theaters outside the U.S. were open at the end of 2020, the chain said in its last earnings statement.