Delayed theater openings to mid-late June will be a net positive to exhibitor profitability, said one analyst Monday, applauding a newfound clarity around opening strategies and hinting at a silver lining – a bump in elusive weekday attendance, at least for a while.
“We would expect movie-goers naturally moved their attendance to Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday to naturally smooth attendance during the week (and would not be surprised if exhibitors enticed them to do so as well),” Wrote analyst Eric Wold of B. Riley FBR.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s decision to allow movie theaters to reopen starting today created some consternation in the sector. On Friday, AMC Entertainment, the nation’s largest exhibitor, plans to remain closed until late June or early July just ahead of Warner Bros. Tenet, the first major film release set for July 17. “With an expectation that all major exhibitors’ reopening plans will be relatively similar,” it helped project a timeline, first to rehire and train staff and implement and perfect sanitizing procedures.
After Tenet, at least eight other large ($50M+) films are due in theaters before the end of September including Mulan, Wonder Woman 1984, The SpongeBob Movie, Bill & Ted Face the Music, and A Quiet Place Part II. Wold urged investor to focus on second-half trends for the beleaguered exhibition space, not the current disaster.
For the big chains, he advocates opening to the public as closely as possible to the flow of new product. We believe movie-goer interest in seeing library films in theaters during the initial reopening period may be fairly limited—both given that those films can be seen at home and movie-goers may want to see how effective the cleaning/seating processes are before venturing back to theaters. With that in mind, we would prefer that the smaller independent chains represent the “test” as opposed to the major chains potentially opening at a loss in the initial weeks (and potentially restarting the need to pay rent).”
If movie-goers positively adapt visitation behavior it would help with the physical distancing protocols theaters will be implementing (every-other-row, checkerboard seating) and may also smooth out the previous patters of extremely low attendance levels mid-week and packed auditoriums Friday through Sunday.