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With growing concern for the widespread outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), folks are putting some “social distance” between themselves and others as they navigate the unknown while trying to keep safe.
With all movie theaters already shuttered in China, on Friday, the first big movie chain in the U.S. to address the situation announced that they’ll be reducing their theater capacities in each of their auditoriums by at least 50 percent, beginning Saturday, March 14, and will continue the trend through April 30.
Many people are dreading a weekend where they may be holed up inside and are instead trying to figure out alternative entertainment methods, such as reading or binging on the copious amounts of TV offerings available via numerous digital streaming platforms.
In a press release sent to investors on Friday, AMC Theaters said it will achieve its 50 percent capacity reduction by “capping ticket sales for each showtime in each of its theatre’s auditoriums to an amount equal to 50 percent of the normal seating capacity.”
Additionally, the chain will further cap ticket sales to a maximum of 250 in auditoriums with more than 500 seats.
“The health and safety of our guests and theatre teams are of the utmost importance to AMC,” CEO and President Adam Aron said in the statement. “Therefore, AMC is proactively taking action to cut in half the number of tickets that we will make available at all our U.S. theatres. With this action, we are facilitating the ‘social distance’ between guests who still want to see movies on a big screen.”
“These are uncharted times in the United States,” he continued. “We are very closely monitoring the guidance of the CDC. We are complying with all directives from federal, state and local health and government authorities, and with our unilateral move to reduce capacity and increase social distancing we are going beyond what governments are requiring of us.”
Although the chain is currently celebrating its 100-year anniversary, this latest move to reduce capacity is likely an attempt to mitigate potential losses the coronavirus risk of exposure might have on its bottom line while getting moviegoers into its theaters.
Declared a “national emergency” by President Trump on Friday, the virus has already forced the closure of major sporting events and social entertainment gatherings, including the NCAA Tournament, while the NBA suspended its entire season until further notice after a player on the Utah Jazz tested positive for coronavirus.
With it, Major League Baseball announced Thursday it will cancel the rest of spring training and delay the start of the regular season for at least two weeks amid the coronavirus outbreak, while Disneyland in California will close on Saturday amid concerns over the spread.
What’s more, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all Broadway theaters to shut their doors on Thursday amid ongoing concerns and banned gatherings of 500 or more people in the city, effectively forcing the hand of Broadway producers who had previously said that Broadway would be “open for business” unless advised otherwise by the government.
An avalanche of musicians, recording artists and concert performers have canceled or postponed their scheduled tours and festivals for the foreseeable future — potentially, positioning the film industry to fair better than most other trades given current global circumstances.
As of Friday, the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. stands at 41, with 31 of those occurring in the state of Washington, while the worldwide death toll is over 5,000 — with more than 3,000 deaths reported from China and more than 1,000 reported from Italy.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
Fox News’ Mariah Haas and Frank Miles contributed to this report.