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AMC Reopens in Colorado as Local Film Programmers Do the Right Thing

AMC is reopening theaters in Denver.EXPAND
AMC is reopening theaters in Denver.
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Denver's public schools have gone virtual until October 16. Nightclubs and most movie theaters are dark, and live music is all but shut down. But AMC, the Kansas-based corporation with stock shares trading for less than the cost of a matinee movie ticket, will be reopening its multiplexes in select markets, the Front Range included, on August 20.

When the theaters reopen, the company — which is celebrating a century of screening films this year, even though it's spent much of it in the dark — will be offering tickets for a mere fifteen cents, plus tax, the price of admission when the theaters launched back in 1920.

The decision to reopen the doors at Colorado theaters was announced on August 14, a couple of weeks after the COVID-19 curve and deaths started going down again here, the apparent result of Governor Jared Polis's statewide mask ordinance, limits on how late booze can be served, and pleas with the public to play it safe, quit partying and reduce social gatherings.

In short: More people quit breathing all over each other, and things appeared to get better.

When AMC theaters — including AMC Flatiron Crossing 14, AMC Orchard 12, AMC Highlands Ranch 24, AMC Westminster Promenade 24, AMC Southlands 16 and AMC Arapahoe Crossing 16 — reopen, there will be a string of new health and safety procedures in place. "Movie-lovers in your area will be among the first to experience our new AMC Safe & Clean initiative, which is designed in cooperation with current and former faculty from the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Clorox Company," the company announced.

Back in June, when AMC theaters were beginning to reopen in select markets, company president Adam Aron incurred public wrath after telling Variety that masks would not be required; the chain flip-flopped on the decision a day later.

In a new video, Aron (who was once CEO of Vail Resorts) dons a mask, which he takes off in order to speak to the camera about how eager the chain is to reopen. His message: "The health and safety of our movie theater guests and our movie theater staff is our absolute highest priority at AMC."

Among the items he touts: social distancing, frequent handwashing and new cleaning practices. AMC has invested millions in electrostatic sprayers that will be used to disinfect theaters between showtimes, HEPA vacuums will be used each night, and some theaters have included MERV 13 ventilation filters to improve air quality...but only if adding that technology was possible. 

The theater encourages customers to order tickets online, though it's not required. Similarly, AMC is asking people to use cards instead of cash, and cash will be prohibited altogether at concessions and bars. (The menus have been pared down to popcorn, hotdogs, candy and drinks — no refills — for now.) Auditoriums will reopen at 30 percent capacity or less, and guests are asked to leave a seat between each other (which does not ensure the six-feet distance public health officials have been recommending) and order food and drinks before arriving. Masks will be required unless customers are eating and drinking, and they are available for purchase. The chain also asks people to self-monitor for sickness.

Meanwhile, Aron will be monitoring the health of AMC, which is reportedly being eyed by Amazon.

Other chains, including Landmark Theatres, are struggling. The Esquire Theatre is for sale, and the chain has failed to pay rent on its building since April. Layoffs and furloughs hit Alamo Drafthouse and other theaters in the spring, and they have not found a way to bring staff back.

Still, the film community is finding ways to persevere.

The video-art series Collective Misnomer just announced its fall schedule, which will be entirely online, and the first edition of the ambitious Mimesis Documentary Festival is already under way virtually through August 18, offering more than sixty documentaries.

There is also the new Silent Film Festival, pairing local and national musicians and performing artists with films; that will take place both in person at the Lyric Cinema's outdoor theater in Fort Collins and online August 21 to 28.

Denver Film, the nonprofit arthouse, has partnered with Denver Arts & Venues for drive-in movies at Red Rocks, which started on August 13, to adapt its annual Film on the Rocks series of classic blockbusters to pandemic conditions. The nonprofit is also partnering over the next two weeks with the avant-garde percussion troupe Itchy-O for an immersive experience called Sypherlot: Drive-In Radio Bath. For those who find even drive-ins too risky, Denver Film is also offering its Virtual Cinema platform, a way to support this local institution while streaming movies at home. 

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