AMC Offers 15-Cent Tickets, but You Might Get Sick

AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. (NYSE: AMC) will offer admission to some of its theaters for 15 cents. The challenge the company faces is that there is a chance people will get sick with COVID-19 there. The same danger has kept Americans off elevators and airplanes, children out of school and people away from Disney theme parks. AMC can keep its theaters clean, but it can’t guarantee customer safety.

The AMC tradeoff for inexpensive seats is that people will sit in what are still fairly crowded theaters. It is, after all, the company’s 100th anniversary. The 15-cent price (plus tax) is what it charged people in 1920. The offer will cover 100 theaters. Then AMC hopes to open two-thirds of its 600 locations by September 3. That is when the much-anticipated film “Tenet” comes out.

AMC has offered assurances similar to other companies that want people to come to public places. However, enclosed spaces like its theaters are particularly risky. AMC will abide by local laws, and it has a program meant to protect customers as much as it can. “AMC Safe & Clean” was developed with the help of current and former faculty of Harvard University’s “prestigious” School of Public Health. The Clorox company also advised AMC on the openings.

The reopening plan includes the other usual COVID-19 protections. Only a modest number of seats will be used. There will be enhanced cleaning. Air filtration will be upgraded. People will have to wear masks. If people want to use them, AMC will offer hand sanitizer and disinfected wipes. Each measure cuts the risk of COVID-19 infection, but none cuts it completely.

Oddly, some of the theaters AMC will open are in areas where the spread of COVID-19 is the worst in the nation. This includes eight theaters is a coronavirus-ravaged Houston. It also includes five in troubled Tampa. Hillsborough County, where Tampa is located, has posted 33,428 confirmed cases and 427 coronavirus deaths. The decision to open in these areas is particularly odd.

A Texas Medical Association analysis ranks the risk of COVID-19 infection for locations from 1 to 10. The risk of going to a movie theater is rated an 8, among the worst scores based on the analysis. Do the AMC plans bring that risk level down? Probably. Does it mean people will be safe? No.