It’s no big secret that the movie theater industry is facing an existential crisis, with serious challenges coming from streaming platforms developed by technology giants like Apple, Netflix, and Amazon, and now a pandemic that’s forced cinemas to shutter around the globe. Weighing the future of movie theaters has become a favorite guessing game for media analysts. Last Friday, the New York Times asked: “Movie Theaters Are on the Brink. Can Wine and Cheese Save Them?”
Maybe not. But there’s reason to believe that the very tech companies threatening the industry could breathe new life into movie theaters.
Last week, rumors circulated that Amazon is interested in acquiring AMC, the largest theater chain in the United States. The news caused a sharp spike in AMC’s stock price. The company has had a rough year: The chain lost money in 2019, despite multiple billion-dollar tentpole releases such as Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, and Frozen 2. And that was before the coronavirus pandemic shut down theaters worldwide. Now, some analysts have speculated that the company might file for bankruptcy. While the theater chain denied the speculation, it raised $500 million in additional debt to weather the current crisis.
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It’s not hard to imagine a merger between a theater chain and a big tech company. Picture stadium seating for original Apple movies like Greyhound at one of the company’s “Town Square” stores, right next to the iPad displays. Or an Amazon theater with a pick-up locker in the lobby and a Whole Foods-branded concession stand. When we emerge from quarantine, there’s a real possibility that the neighborhood multiplex will have a brand in common with the company that delivers your odds and ends.
If Apple, Netflix, or Amazon owned a theater chain, the company would make money no…