UPDATED with CEO comments from conference call, 9:09 AM: When its theaters open their doors, exhibitor Marcus Theaters will roll out a “low to no contact” experience for customers including a mobile app to buy concessions they can retrieve at a pickup location, executives said on a call Tuesday, laying out what the moviegoing experience might look like in the age of COVID-19.
The circuit successfully launched mobile concession sales at its Movie Tavern theater in Brookfied, WI, about nine months ago and will be roll it out to its other locations. Customers can purchase and scan tickets. “The usher will be standing six feet away but will assume you have a ticket,” said CEO Gregory Marcus on a call to discuss third quarter financials that saw his family owned business swing far into the red. Its combination of businesses couldn’t be worse for the current climate including the nation’s fourth-largest theater chain and a portfolio of hotels with bars and restaurants.
Marcus said there will be “a very visible sanitation process” in theaters and between shows, where customers will be sitting every other seat, every other row. Staff will have their temperatures taken daily and wear masks and gloves.
He said it might be safer at first than other communal activities. Movie theaters “are different than concert facilities. We don’t have a thousand people showing up at one time. They are spread out. We can see who goes in the lobby and who doesn’t. You can adjust your show schedules,” he said. “And you get in a movie theater and you don’t talk. You sit there quietly. There is some breathing, but not a more emphasized kind of thing. It’s an environment we think can be properly addressed through good social distancing.”
As other exhibition execs have, he expects to launch with studio library content – and is working closely with studios on that. He dismissed the brouhaha over Universal launching Trolls World Tour on video-on-demand to a unique situation and said he’s confident studios fully appreciate the financial imperative of a theatrical release.
PREVIOUSLY: Marcus Corp, which owns the nation’s fourth-largest movie chain as well as restaurants, hotels and resorts, swung to a loss last quarter, hit by theater closures and one-time charges.
A net loss of $19.3 million compared with a $1.8 million profit the year before. Revenue dipped 6.2% to $159 million.
The company cited nonrecurring expenses of $2.8 million for payroll continuation for staff impacted by the theatre closures, and impairment charges of about $8.7 million.
“The first quarter was off to a very good start, with revenues and operating income up significantly through February 2020, benefiting from several new films and strong carryover holiday season films,” said Rolando Rodriguez, CEO of Marcus Theatres. “March started with a difficult comparison to last year’s top film, Captain Marvel, and then, of course, everything changed when we were required to close our theatres mid-March.”
“Similar to so many businesses across the entertainment and hospitality industries, we faced unprecedented challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic in the first quarter. We had to make some very difficult decisions during the quarter, including temporarily closing our movie theatres, restaurants and bars, as well as subsequently temporarily closing our hotels and resorts due to an increase in cancellations and a decrease in occupancy. We believe the actions we took were the right thing to do to help ensure the safety and well-being of our associates, customers, guests and communities,” said Gregory Marcus, CEO of parent company Marcus Corp.
Adjusted net loss per diluted common share attributable to Marcus was $0.29 for the first quarter of fiscal 2020, up from $0.13 for the prior year first quarter – eliminating the impact of some nonrecurring property closure expenses and impairment charges and certain nonrecurring acquisition and preopening expenses related to the Movie Tavern, which Marcus acquired in February.
Although numerous films scheduled to be released during the second quarter have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and its not exactly clear when theatres will reopen, there are still a significant number of films currently scheduled to hit the box office during the second half of the year that the company expects will appeal to a broad audience base, Rodriquez said That list includes Tenet, Mulan, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, Wonder Woman 1984, The Quiet Place Part II, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Halloween Kills, Black Widow, Soul, No Time to Die, West Side Story, Coming 2 America, Dune, The Croods 2 and Top Gun: Maverick.
Looking ahead to next year, he said, the anticipated film slate for 2021 is expected to be very strong as it now includes several films that were originally scheduled for 2020.