Beginning in August, Walmart will be turning select parking lots into outdoor drive-in movie theaters as part of a move to help families get out of the house while adhering to coronavirus precautions, the retail chain announced Thursday.
In a press release, Walmart revealed that it plans to hold 320 family-friendly movie screenings at 160 locations across the country in partnership with the media group Tribeca Enterprises, the group that hosts the Tribeca Film Festival.
“Summer hasn’t really felt like summer yet, and I know I hear every day, ‘Mom, I’m bored!’” Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer for Walmart, said in a statement. “Through our digital means and vast footprint of stores, we’re hoping to bring some summer fun to families across the country. We know Walmart plays a role in our communities that extends far beyond getting them necessary supplies, and we see that now more than ever.”
The screenings will also feature “special appearances” from celebrities and filmmakers, in addition to concession delivery. A spokesperson for Walmart told The Washington Post that admission for the screenings will be free.
Amidst the coronavirus pandemic and closures of traditional movie theaters, the nation’s drive-in movie theaters, of which there were roughly 559 remaining in 2019, have seen growing interest with the public.
As The Los Angeles Times reported back in March, when the coronavirus closures were still beginning across the country, some theater owners were reporting an increase in business despite having to adhere to coronavirus mitigation strategies.
“It has been a welcome relief for families and adults looking for a little getaway from the house,” a drive-in owner in Southern California told the news agency. “We’ve been trying to let people know that we have a safe environment and [offer] a little escape.”
In the time since, movie theaters have announced reopening plans, with AMC theaters, the largest movie theater chain in the world, saying that it expects many of its hundreds of locations open by the end of July.
According to USA Today, visitors will be required to wear face masks at all times, except when eating or drinking concessions, and theaters will operate with reduced seating, with the amount of vacant space in the theater dependent on local guidelines.
However, the effects of the pandemic closures have left the movie theater industry struggling with profit margins, and AMC has said it has “substantial doubt” about the future of its business, according to MassLive.
“Our inability to generate significant cash flow from operations if our theaters continue to operate at significantly lower than historical levels … could lead to a substantial increase in indebtedness and negatively impact our ability to comply with the financial covenants, if applicable, in our debt agreements,” wrote AMC, which revealed a net loss between $2.1 and $2.4 billion in the first quarter of 2020, reports the news agency.
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