It was a big day for moviegoers in Los Angeles County on Friday as AMC and Cinemark theaters reopened several locations after being shut down for a year.
AMC Theatres says it was expecting to have 98% of its U.S. movie theaters open on Friday as a bunch of theaters reopen across California. Even more theaters are expected to open by March 26.
California is expected to open 52 of its 54 locations by Monday. The Leawood, Kansas-based company is preparing to resume operations at the rest of its California locations once the proper local approvals are in place. AMC previously opened more than 500 of its theaters elsewhere around the country.
While some movie theaters have opened over the past few months with limited capacity and enhanced safety protocols, the announcement by AMC - the nation's largest movie chain - to open nearly all of its U.S. theaters by month's end means more people will have more locations to choose from if they want to see a film on the big screen.
AMC's announcement is welcomed by movie fans not only because more of them will get to return to AMC's reclining seats and stadium style format, but because it means the company has hopefully put the worst behind it. It was only in June that AMC cautioned it may not survive the coronavirus pandemic, as its theaters closed and film studios started releasing more movies directly to viewers on streaming services.
But AMC stayed the course, slowly opening its theaters in states over the past several months when it was allowed to and pivoting its business. One of its outside-the-box moves included renting out theaters for private movie screenings to a limited number of people.
More theaters opening will also mean more jobs for people to go to. AMC spokesman Ryan Noonan says the company is welcoming back employees who were working for it prior to theaters being shut down, as well as bringing in new workers. All will be trained on its cleaning and safety protocols, which include social distancing and automatic seat blocking in each theater, mandatory mask wearing, hand sanitizing stations, upgraded air filtration, contactless ticketing and mobile ordering for food and drinks.
Meanwhile, Hollywood's El Capitan Theatre on Friday also welcomed back moviegoers with a showing of Disney's new animated film "Raya and the Last Dragon."
The Walt Disney Co. Is the parent company of the El Capitan Theatre and ABC7. The Associated Press contributed to this report.