AMC Theatres Caps Attendance at 50 Per Screening At Its Open Locations

Meanwhile, S&P Global Ratings said it would review the company's debt ratings for a potential downgrade amid the pandemic.

AMC Theatres on Monday unveiled a "50-50" policy through April 30 that will see the exhibition giant limit attendance at every movie screening across the country to a maximum of 50 guests amid the coronavirus.

The limit on tickets sold by the largest American cinema chain follows AMC, as well as Regal Cinemas and Cineplex, the Canadian exhibition giant, on Friday cutting seating capacity by 50 percent in all locations across North America.

“The health of our guests and employee teams comes first for AMC. Therefore, effective immediately, at all our U.S. theaters that are open, we will limit ticket sales per showtime in each of our theatre auditoriums to a maximum of 50 percent of normal seating capacity and a maximum of 50 people, whichever is less," said AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron.

AMC added it is complying with directions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other local and federal authorities to limit exposure to the coronavirus outbreak, which has caused moviegoing to plummet. New York City and L.A. cinemas have been ordered shut.

The CDC has recommended a limitation on gatherings to a maximum of 50 people. AMC added it is also complying with governmental mandates to close certain theaters, restaurants or bars for social distancing.

AMC, which operates 11,000 screens in the U.S., also said that it will put in place "enhanced" cleaning procedures on "high touch-point areas, including kiosks, counter tops, restroom areas, glass, handrails and doorknobs."

The new protocols, like the 50-50 policy on ticket sales, will run through April 30.

Meanwhile, debt ratings agency S&P Global Ratings on Monday said it would review AMC's ratings amid the coronavirus pandemic for a potential downgrade.

“We expect the spread of coronavirus will negatively affect theater attendance in 2020 as movie releases are delayed and consumers increasingly avoid public areas," S&P analysts Scott Zari and Rose Oberman wrote in a Monday report. "We expect lower ticket and concession sales will weigh on exhibitors' financial performance, but we believe it is too early to determine the magnitude and duration of the negative impact on credit measures. We are placing all our ratings ... on CreditWatch with negative implications.”

The analyst duo explained: "AMC Entertainment's leverage could potentially increase above our previously established downgrade thresholds for the current rating. In addition, if the virus impact is prolonged, it could require the company to shift capital spending and expenses to later in the year to preserve liquidity, which could lead to an extended period of reduced profitability."