Analyst Ranks Top Cinema Chains' Health and Safety Protocols for Reopening

Cinemark theater
Courtesy of Business Wire

Cinemark theater

They will be "key to a successful" return of exhibitors and their clients and have the "potential to drive attendance share shifts during the recovery," says Credit Suisse analyst Meghan Durkin.

Credit Suisse analyst Meghan Durkin has ranked the health and safety protocols of the four biggest U.S. cinema chains as they reopen movie theaters after the lockdowns due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. In her Friday report, she said that they will be "key to a successful" return of exhibitors and their clients and have the "potential to drive attendance share shifts" over time.

The analyst reviewed the health and safety standards and guidelines detailed by the top chains and segmented them into such key areas as cleaning, air quality, employee and guest health, safety and social distancing, and concessions. "We found that all chains will perform employee health checks, while none will check guest temperatures or require guests to wear a mask," the analyst wrote. "Cleaning between shows, providing centrally located hand sanitizer and reducing employee/guest interactions has been prioritized by all of the chains."

Concluded Durkin: "However, the strategies around rollout plans differ greatly — which could result in varying degrees of effectiveness, especially early on. Given the footprint overlap among top chains, we believe high cleaning and safety standards will become a key differentiator in coming months, particularly in larger markets like New York and Los Angeles where COVID-19 cases have been widespread. And with capacity restricted, and an unknown level of demand, these protocols have potential to drive attendance share shifts during the recovery."

Cinemark and Marcus Theaters are reopening a few theaters Friday "with the goal of beta testing their protocols before opening more broadly over the next month," Durkin noted. Meanwhile, Cineworld's Regal and AMC Theatres will open their doors in mid-July.

So how do the chains' protocols measure up? "Of the top four chains, we found Cinemark’s protocols superior, due to having the most thorough safety standards (the only chain to require gloves for all employees, and selecting an employee at each location to act as Chief Clean and Safety Monitor), better air quality, frequent cleaning of high-touch areas (every 30 minutes), and the potential for strong implementation as it rolls out in phases of a third of its theaters each week next month," the Credit Suisse analyst concluded.

Durkin ranks AMC in the second spot, citing "routine cleanings, good safety protocols and strong air quality due to upgrading its air filters where available." But she also highlighted: "We do question the plan to open 450 theaters at once, and find it highly unlikely that AMC will be allowed to ramp to 100 percent capacity before there is a vaccine (AMC plans to do so by this Thanksgiving)."

The analyst ranks Marcus' health and safety measures third. The circuit plans "frequent cleanings, going touch-less in its restrooms, and installing a bathroom attendant to clean stalls between each use," she noted.

That leaves the fourth and final spot to Regal. It is "ranked last due to having provided little information, and for not having its employees wear masks unless the municipality requires it — which is likely to discourage consumers in some markets, particularly at the concessions stand," argued Durkin.