Kansas City movie theaters banking on a comeback as more films release in 2021

Picture of AMC concession stand

The COVID-19 pandemic forced AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. — the world’s largest theater operator — to close all of its roughly 1,000 locations last year. The squeeze forced the Leawood-based company to furlough employees, from concessions workers to the CEO, and to scramble for months to avoid running out of cash.

It was a similar scene at Liberty-based B&B Theatres, which has roughly 50 locations. Furloughed employees included members of the Bagby family that owns the chain as the company worked to keep bankruptcy at bay.

“It’s been the most stressful time in my family’s life,” Brock Bagby, executive vice president in charge of programming, real estate development and acquisitions, said at one point. “We’re 96 years old. We’ve never gone through anything like this.”

But even as AMC CEO Adam Aron discussed a 2020 that included a loss of more than $4.5 billion during an earnings call in March, he expressed optimism. The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and a gradual reopening of the economy bolstered his belief that AMC had weathered the storm.

“Our focus is no longer on survival but now has turned instead to directing a surge in moviegoing and on the recovery of AMC,” he said.

Aron isn’t alone in his outlook. Movie theater operators are banking on a comeback because theaters offer a communal experience and amenities that can’t be replicated at home.

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