Being the biggest doesn’t necessarily mean being the strongest. Cinemark isn’t the former but they’re proving to be the latter.
Cinemark Theaters is the third biggest multiplex chain in the nation, trailing (in order) AMC Theatres and Regal Entertainment. Of the three, however, Cinemark is in the strongest financial position of the Top 3 by a considerable margin, especially as AMC continues to teeter on the brink of bankruptcy.
And now, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cinemark is about to lead the way in re-opening theaters across the U.S.
Starting on June 19, Cinemark will launch a four-phase process for their national theater chain. It will unfold as follows:
- Week 1: Five theaters in the Dallas-Fort Worth area
- Week 2: One-third of its domestic theaters (TBD)
- Weeks 3 & 4: The final two-thirds of theaters, culminating in a 100% reopen by July 10.
That July 10 goal is just one week prior to the still-scheduled national release of Christopher Nolan‘s Tenet. Disney’s Mulan and Warners’ Wonder Woman 1984 are also on tap to open in the weeks soon after.
To lure patrons in the interim, Cinemark will be screening classic films for $5. Those titles (TBD) will be interspersed with more recent titles that played previously in 2020 and late 2019.
In terms of its operations, Cinemark won’t be returning to normal. Here are the guidelines and restrictions they will adhere to:
- Theaters won’t sell to 100% capacity (although occupancy levels will vary).
- Face masks will be required for employees, encouraged for customers.
- Plexiglass will be used to separate employees from customers.
- Showtimes will be staggered to further ensure social distancing.
- Seats will be cleaned after every showing and the start of each day.
- Tickets purchased online can now be scanned on smart phones, thus eliminating an exchange of physical tickets.
- Concession offerings will be reduced so as to make the environment as least-labor intensive as possible.
As many states have gone through Phases 1, 2, and 3 of re-opening their economies without major spikes in COVID-19 cases, increased public activity has shown there is a considerable appetite for taking calculated risks, especially as businesses do their part to make those risks as safe as possible.
Understandably, these guidelines will not be enough for many wary patrons. Skepticism by some about the wisdom of Cinemark’s plan is to be expected. But with its platforming strategy, Cinemark will be able to fine tune protocols and practices as they expand, or put it all on pause if necessary.
More importantly, someone has to go first. Cinemark’s success (or challenges) will be an important case study for other movie theaters, as well as other indoor-related industries dependent on large public assembly.