‘Tenet’: New York Will Be “Right On The Cusp Of Reopening” By July 17 But City Release Outlook Uncertain, AMC CEO Says

AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron believes New York City’s arduous recovery from COVID-19 leaves an uncertain outlook for theaters there being ready to play Warner Bros.’ Tenet when it opens July 17.

The global footprint of AMC locations is aiming to welcome the Christopher Nolan-directed release, Aron said on a conference call with Wall Street analysts, though he repeatedly called the situation “fluid.” As of Monday night, he said, Warner Bros. remained committed to its date, as Disney is to July 24 with Mulan.

“Based on current expectations, New York State is supposed to open broadly in early July, ahead of Tenet. New York City will be right on the cusp,” Aron said. “That assumes that Tenet holds on July 17, and that’s a decision that’s being made in a different board room than ours.”

After criticizing rival theater circuits that opened in states like Georgia in early May, Aron characterized the reopening of famously high-density New York City as a “Herculean task.” The city has had nearly 22,000 COVID-19 deaths, almost 20% of the national total and its total case load has been greater than that of most entire countries around the world.

Aron described AMC as a “major player” in New York, with market share of more than 40%, but said at the same time the market comprises just a “single-digit percentage” of the company’s national tally of 635 theaters.

“We’re empathetic with the public officials in New York City,” Aron said. “I don’t want to make any predictions about whether New York City will be open for a July 17 Tenet date or not. I hope so. They probably will just skirt through it. They might not. And the reality is, if you were to ask the mayor that question, I don’t think he’d know the answer either.”

Aron punctuated his uneasiness with a 10-second start-and-stop passage during his answer to an analyst’s question, when the garrulous executive appeared momentarily at a loss for words. “What we learn over the next four weeks will determine what happens four weeks from now,” he said.

While New York City is the leading arthouse market and a hub for media, tastemakers and specialty audiences, it is also the largest U.S. city and therefore a key commercial driver for most films. AMC subsumed many of the former Loews Cineplex locations its footprint during a period of M&A-fueled growth. In April 2000, AMC opened the doors to the Empire on 42nd Street, a multi-level complex that originally had 4,900 seats and quickly became one of the busiest theaters in the U.S. The Lincoln Square on the Upper West Side is another high-capacity AMC site, with the largest IMAX screen in North on its top floor.

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