Hot dogs, popcorn tubs and soda cups will be dancing again soon across movie theater screens and singing “Let’s All Go to the Movies,” but will customers want to? Atom Tickets, a company that sells movie tickets, concessions and more through its app and website, knows. The Santa Monica, CA, startup found in its May survey of 1,500 digital moviegoers that 34% of customers plan to return to movie theaters within a month of reopening, 25% plan to return immediately and 21% will wait for a vaccine. For marketers in the industry, here’s a quick look at COVID-19’s impact on movie theaters and five ways movie theaters can prepare to reopen to a crowd.
Moviegoers don’t plan to stay away from the big screen for long, and this may explain why: A Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA’s) poll shows America’s favorite pastime is going to the movies, beating out theme parks and Major League Baseball, probably because it’s more convenient and cost-effective than other events on the list:
When customers do flock back to movie theaters, will movie theaters welcome them back with open doors? Both small and large movie theaters are struggling financially right now and doing their best to stay afloat. Even the largest theater operator in the United States, AMC Theatres, isn’t immune to financial woes. The company is looking at a long-term debt of $4.85 billion as a result of COVID-19. And back in March, AMC Chief Executive Adam Aron in a CNN interview said, “Literally we don’t have a penny of revenue coming in the door. Three weeks ago, AMC was an immensely healthy company. But now with expenses out the door and no revenues, we are burning through cash. What we need is liquidity, and only the government is going to provide that.” Now months later, AMC’s situation has only gotten more dire, to the point the company is at risk of going under.
With many movie theaters still playing the waiting game until they can reopen, with Hollywood studios delaying big movie releases, and with customers leery about exactly when they can safely escape to the movies, what can movie theater marketers do now for the biggest impact later? Here are five recommendations: