Q&A With AMC’s Top Executive on Movie Theaters’ Plight Amid Coronavirus
AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. Chief Executive Adam Aron spoke to The Wall Street Journal by phone on Friday, discussing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the movie-theater industry and on his company, the sector’s largest.
AMC娱乐控股公司。该公司首席执行长亚当阿伦(Adam Aron)周五通过电话接受“华尔街日报”(Wall Street Journal)采访，讨论了冠状病毒大流行对电影院行业和该行业最大公司的影响。
One of the main issues, he said, is that New York state and certain major metropolitan areas in California such as Los Angeles haven’t allowed cinemas to reopen, prompting studios to delay major releases.
A spokeswoman for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said Tuesday that the state is concerned about movie theaters because they involve large groups spending extended time together indoors, as well as lobby congestion when customers arrive and leave.
AMC on Tuesday warned that it could run out of cash by year’s end if it doesn’t raise additional funds or get more people back to theaters.
Here are highlights from the interview, edited for clarity.
WSJ: What has AMC done to get past this crisis?
Mr. Aron: We knew that the only way we could successfully reopen our theaters is if we could respect the science.
We went into a partnership with Clorox and hired current and former faculty members from Harvard University School of Public Health so we could get the top experts in the world on cleanliness, sanitation and health safety, so that they could tell us what we needed to do to reopen our theaters safely.
We developed the most comprehensive effort that anyone has ever seen to operate movie theaters safely and cleanly.And that included all the things you would expect, like limiting seating capacity, blocking seats next to guests, social distancing, mandatory mask-wearing, disinfecting wipes everywhere, sanitizing gel everywhere, plexiglass shields everywhere, going cashless in the theaters. We also invested tens of millions of dollars in high-tech solutions.
By the end of August though, in about two-thirds of the country it was pretty clear it was safe to reopen. Now it’s the middle of October.
WSJ: Why are Hollywood studios delaying film releases?
Mr. Aron: We have opened our theaters almost all around the country, and done so for millions of guests without incident. Having said that, New York is the center of the universe. Movie studios cannot afford to open movies in the U.S. if they cannot also open them in New York.So as a result of that, the entire movie industry is waiting for New York to bless the reopening of theaters, and understandably so.
We’ve learned the lessons of what Gov. Cuomo has done well in New York. For the movie industry at large to rekindle, the time is now.
WSJ: How dire is the financial situation at AMC and other movie-theater businesses?
Mr. Aron: We’ve been going through $100 million a month, waiting for the movie industry to recover, which can only happen when New York reopens.
If this decision is not made in the next few weeks, we won’t just lose the Thanksgiving movies, we’ll lose the Christmas movies. Christmas and New Year’s are the busiest two weeks of the entire year in the movie industry.
WSJ: Would you say that movie theaters are an essential industry?
Mr. Aron: There’s a view among some that movies are a nonessential industry. But what we do in the movie business is we amuse and we entertain. If there ever was a time that Americans wanted to be amused and entertained, it is right now.
Going to a movie theater is the second most common out-of-home experience among Americans for discretionary spending, second only to going out to a restaurant to eat a meal. Like automobiles, like airplanes, like Boeing, the movie industry is a big American exporter. The entire world over watches American movies. That gives the U.S. soft power. This is not a frivolous business by any stretch. Plus, we hire a lot of people.
WSJ: What are the stakes if the movie-theater industry suffers a collapse?
Mr. Aron: The movie-theater industry itself employs 150,000 people in the U.S. Add onto that people who work for studios, people who work to make movies.
Movies draw people into shopping malls, who then linger in those malls before and after the movie, going to stores and restaurants. We know that retail was generally under stress and challenged even before the coronavirus. And what malls have been deprived of as theaters are either closed, or open but lightly attended, is all that foot traffic that theaters generate. There’s a lot of dollars and a lot of jobs at stake.
WSJ: Are the film studios being shortsighted by delaying releases and putting theaters at risk?
Mr. Aron: Let’s just say I’m having that conversation with studio heads right now. Without being critical of decisions that they have made, the consequences of the decision are potentially severe. These are very complicated times for anyone running any business, given the shock that’s hit the U.S. economy.
I do think our interests are very much aligned. If New York allows theaters to reopen, movie studios will release movies. If movies are released, moviegoing all around the U.S., and all around the world will recover quickly.