“Movies in 2020 at 1920 Prices.” That is the amusing slogan AMC Theatres trumpeted Thursday in relation to their confirmation of 100 movie theaters definitely reopening across North America. With this reopening signaling one-sixth of their U.S. locations being ready for business in a week’s time, AMC will charge only 15 cents per ticket on the first day of the rollout.
The pricing is an amusing gimmick that harkens back to when going to the movies was not only safe but also the primary form of populist entertainment in the U.S. Indeed, if one was to argue, like director Christopher Nolan has, that cinema is the most democratic form of art, it’s with those kind of prices that it became possible. Of course by Aug. 20 none of the intended studio wide releases on which theaters are resting hope will be out to reawakening audiences’ appetites.
Indeed, The New Mutants, the first major studio wide release since March, does not open until Aug. 28. And Tenet, the real tentpole that theaters are banking on to be truly must-see, does not open in “select U.S. cities” until Sept. 3. Even Solstice Pictures’ Unhinged, which stars Russell Crowe as a maniac driver, doesn’t bow until Aug. 21.
But the novel approach of returning to ‘20s era prices in a different decade is a gambit designed to get those who really miss moviegoing to try AMC locations out on the first day, likely by watching old favorites such as Nolan’s Inception, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Of course it’s trying to get audiences to try it during the heat of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite infection rates going down in May, infection rates have increased again this summer, particularly in states like Florida, Georgia, Arizona, and California. For that reason, movie theaters remain mandatorily closed in more than 10 states, and in major moviegoing markets like New York City.
Still, AMC Theatres is pledging that the reopening will come with new safety features which include reduced capacity seating to enforce social distancing, new ventilation systems in the theaters, and an emphasis on no-contact ticket buying and concessions. Perhaps in AMC’s biggest acceptance of the current health crisis though is the theater chain agreeing to require moviegoers to wear masks… but that only came after backlash to the initial announcement that mask-wearing would merely be a guideline and AMC did not want to wade into the “politics” of hard science.
Still, on Aug. 20 you can expect to get some version of the 1920 experience. Just hope it isn’t the 1919 one when the Spanish Flu still was hanging on.