AMC to reopen almost all US movie theaters by Friday

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AMC, the world’s largest movie theater chain, said it will open nearly all of its US locations starting Friday, marking a significant milestone for the company that narrowly avoided bankruptcy amid the pandemic.

Shares of AMC rose nearly 6 percent to $14.35 in early Thursday trading on the news.

AMC’s shares have surged more than sixfold this year during the “Reddit Rally” that has also boosted shares of previously down-and-out names including GameStop.

AMC said it would open 98 percent of its US theaters by Friday and that by March 26, 99 percent of its doors would be open. This week’s reopening will include all 25 of its Los Angeles county theaters and all eight of its San Diego county theaters in California. AMC said it foresees 52 of its 54 locations in the state to be open as of March 22 “once proper local approvals are in place.”

AMC theaters are reopening with limited capacity, which vary based on state regulations. For example, California said movie theater capacity must be limited to 25 percent or 100 people, “whichever is less,” while in New York the limit is simply 25 percent.

Additionally, all AMC theaters will reopen with its pandemic-era safety protocols, which encompasses mandatory mask wearing, enhanced cleaning, contactless ticket and concession purchases and spaced out seating.

AMC, which has over 630 theaters in the US, was forced to close all its doors during the pandemic and repeatedly came close to filing for Chapter 11. When AMC and other movie theater chains began reopening at the end of last summer, they faced capacity regulations and a dearth of new movies to screen as Hollywood studios delayed their biggest films.

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 late Wednesday. With the focus now on reopening, AMC is “operating with the highest devotion to the health and safety,” he said.

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