By Lina Saigol
People tired of binge watching Netflix now have another option: renting their own auditorium for a private screening.
AMC Entertainment /zigman2/quotes/200235402/composite AMC +0.25% , the world’s largest cinema chain, is offering movie buffs the chance to hold their own private screening for groups of up to 20 people, without fear of contracting or passing on coronavirus.
Viewers can choose from new films such as “Tenet,” which cost $149-$349, or older favorites including “Shrek,” “Jurassic Park,” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” for the price of $99 , or just under $5 a head.
AMC will charge an extra $100 to use a microphone to greet guests , while extra time in the auditorium before or after the movie is available for a fee of $250 per half-hour. Bringing in your own food adds another $250 to the tab, but you can’t heat it up.
The move comes as theaters try to drum up business amid a dramatic collapse in revenues, after they were forced to close their doors to curb the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
Regal owner Cineworld /zigman2/quotes/206525056/delayed UK:CINE -6.89% , the world’s second-largest movie chain, said on Oct. 2 it will temporarily close its cinemas in the U.K. and the U.S., putting 45,000 jobs at risk.
The decision was taken after the release of the latest James Bond film, “No Time to Die” was delayed for the second time. The MGM film had been due to be released in April this year, but was then postponed until November because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now expected to be released on Apr. 2, 2021.
The boss of cinema chain Vue International , Tim Richards, has said that demand from customers was there but there was a lack of major movies being released for them to watch. “Our problem right now is we have no movies, and this was a big blow for us,” he told BBC Radio.
With cinemas empty, millions of viewers have turned to Netflix /zigman2/quotes/202353025/composite NFLX +1.00% and other digital video services for their entertainment fix. Shares in Netflix, the world’s largest streaming service, have soared 75% since mid-March, when governments worldwide imposed stay-at-home orders.
Last week, Walt Disney /zigman2/quotes/203410047/composite DIS +1.04% said it had restructured its media and entertainment businesses to focus on streaming, as consumers pivot to digital viewing. In May, AT&T /zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite T +2.42% launched its HBO Max streaming HBO Max to a captive audience stuck at home, while Universal, owned by Comcast /zigman2/quotes/209472081/composite CMCSA +2.15% , has decided to release movie titles on streaming services this year, as a result of the pandemic.
AMC’s private screening initiative follows that of peer Cinemark Holdings /zigman2/quotes/200040530/composite CNK +1.93% , which in August launched its Private Watch Party allowing people to rent an entire auditorium for up to 20 guests to watch a film of their choice, also for $99.
Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has also got in on the act. Starting at $150, the Alamo Personal Theater lets groups pick a movie — from dozens of big-screen classics and select new releases — as well as reserve the showtime, and order food and drink in the theater.
On Monday, AMC said it plans to reopen about a dozen locations in New York state starting Oct. 23, following guidance from Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the weekend.
A full list of locations will be made available later this week, and the company plans to have more than 530 theaters open in the country by the end of the month.