IMAX CEO Calls Potential COVID-19 Vaccine A "Game Changer" For Movie Theaters As AMC Launches Private Rental Program

Movie theaters are in trouble right now, but there might be some light at the end of the tunnel. Yesterday, Pfizer Inc. announced its COVID-19 vaccine could be 90 percent effective, and while nothing is written in stone yet, that's the best news regarding a potential vaccine we've heard yet. And if the vaccine is effective, and its distribution successful, experts predict movie theaters might be able to reopen sooner rather than later in 2021.

As a result, the CEO of IMAX is calling the news a "game-changer." However, we're not out of the woods yet. In the meantime, struggling chain AMC is launching a Private Theatre Rentals program while Regal is shutting down its remaining New York and Los Angeles locations.

IMAX CEO on Potential COVID-19 Vaccine

To be clear: while there's a potential vaccine for the coronavirus, it's going to be a while before things get back to normal. However, that's not stopping IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond from being hopeful. Speaking with THR, Gelfond said: "Pfizer said it is a game changer in terms of public health issues. And I think the vaccine is a game changer in terms of the movie industry. No one had a time frame before. The announcement puts bookends on in."

Theaters have been hard-hit by the coronavirus, and while studios keep pushing big movies into 2021, there remains some doubt regarding how things will play out. However, should the vaccine be successful, theaters could be back up and running sometime next year. Yesterday, Pfizer reported:

  • Vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in participants without evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection in the first interim efficacy analysis
  • Analysis evaluated 94 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in trial participants
  • Study enrolled 43,538 participants, with 42% having diverse backgrounds, and no serious safety concerns have been observed; Safety and additional efficacy data continue to be collected
  • Submission for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) planned for soon after the required safety milestone is achieved, which is currently expected to occur in the third week of November
  • Clinical trial to continue through to final analysis at 164 confirmed cases in order to collect further data and characterize the vaccine candidate's performance against other study endpoints
  • They also added: "As the study continues, the final vaccine efficacy percentage may vary."

    AMC Private Theatre Rentals Program 

    AMC has been hit particularly hard by the virus – they just reported a $905.8 million quarterly loss – and they're now trying to make up for that lost revenue with a Private Theatre Rentals program. Per Variety, moviegoers can "rent out a showing at any of AMC's 600 screening rooms nationwide for as low as $99 for as many as 20 patrons." Viewing options include TenetFreaky, and The War With Grandpa. The price? $149.

    Now, I'm as ready to get back to movie theaters as anyone, but I honestly can't imagine plopping down $149 for The War With Grandpa. But that's me! Variety adds:

    AMC said all showtimes at all locations stringently enforce the AMC Safe & Clean policies and protocols, including mandatory mask wearing and appropriate social distancing within the auditorium. The total allowed guest count may be less than 20 to comply with state and local directives.

    Regal Closing Remaining NY and LA Locations

    Deadline is reporting that effective Thursday, Regal will close their 18 locations left open in New York and California. Regal had just reopened 11 New York theaters in October after getting the go-ahead from New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. They also had seven theaters in Los Angeles still running. But now, they're closing, and they won't be reopening for the foreseeable future. With all of this in mind, it's probably safe to assume the holiday box office will be non-existent this year. You can also expect Wonder Woman 1984, which is still slated for Christmas Day, to move to 2021.