AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron told CNBC on Thursday that the company has been pleased with the reopening of its movie theaters following coronavirus-induced closures, citing positive reactions from attendees.
“Our theater cleanliness scores are the best they’ve been in decades, an all-time high,” Aron said on “Squawk Box.” “I think you can eat off the floor,” he quipped.
More than 1 million people in the U.S. have attended movies at AMC theaters since they reopened in late August, the Kansas-based company said Wednesday. The company started with roughly its first 100 locations on Aug. 20. Aron said the company, which had 636 theaters in the U.S., as of Dec. 31, will have about 75% of its locations open this weekend.
Aron said AMC worked with Clorox and Harvard University’s School of Public Health on its safety protocols for reopening. There are policies in place such as mask requirements — except for when eating and drinking during the movie — and blocking out seats to allow for additional space between guests, he said. AMC has disinfectant wipes and other products that it uses to clean, as well.
“But much more important than that, we’ve invested literally millions and millions in high-tech solutions. We’ve upgraded our air filters to MERV 13. It’s about four times the filtration that we had prior to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said. “We’ve bought electrostatic sprayers for all of our theaters so that we’re spraying down out auditoriums with these electronically charged cleaning solutions, so we’re all over both tough and airborne transmission of the virus.”
In most places where theaters are allowed to reopen, there are capacity restrictions in place that are meant to allow for social distancing. Aron said those caps are less of an issue for AMC’s business than perhaps an outsider may think.
“We’re not an airline or a Broadway theater that traditionally runs full. In the movie theater business, we’re more of a church built for Easter Sunday,” he said, noting that the 350 million tickets it sold last year represented just 17% of its overall seats. “The issue for us will be convincing moviegoers that our theaters are safe and that our theaters are clean.”
“So far, we’re off to a great start,” he added.
Shares of AMC are down about 13.5% so far in 2020, under a $700 million stock market value, as the pandemic caused significant disruption to the entertainment industry. All of its U.S. theaters were closed during the second quarter, and in June, it warned it had “substantial doubt” it could survive the coronavirus-related shutdown.
The stock hit a 52-week low of $1.95 on April 13. As of Wednesday’s close of $6.26 per share, it had rallied more than 200%. Even so, AMC shares traded about $12 apiece around this time last year.
There had been questions about how the movie theater business would bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic after people were forced to watch films at home or at alternatives like drive-in theaters. But Aron expressed confidence about AMC going forward. “We’re very encouraged — not about what’s going to happen in the next two weeks —but as you look ahead to 2021, we see recovery,” he said.