MOVIE BUFF-ET: AMC theater chain struggling amid COVID-19 shutdown

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Going into the fourth week of movie theaters being shut down because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the news isn’t looking much better for the United State’s largest theater chain, AMC Theaters, which owns the Fiesta Square 12.

After having its credit downrated last week, reports from “Variety” and “Forbes” state that AMC, based in Leawood, Kan., may attempt to reorganize under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.

AMC furloughed or laid off all its employees, and calls to its corporate offices in Leawood went unreturned Thursday.

What that means for the Fiesta Square 12, which was acquired by AMC from Regal Cinemas of Knoxville, Tenn., and Fayetteville movie-goers is uncertain at this time. Fayetteville is fortunate to also be serviced by the Razorback Cinema Grill and IMAX, owned by Malco Theaters of Memphis.

Malco also owns the Towne and Pinnacle Hills cinemas in Rogers, and the Springdale Cinema Grill. All of Malco’s theaters are also closed temporarily. The Starlight Cinema of Bentonville is independently owned and is also closed because of the virus. The 112 Drive In postponed its opening until further notice.

Arkansas isn’t predicted to hit its peak of COVID-19 virus infection rate until the end of April, and it remains uncertain when non-essential businesses – where large groups gather like theaters – will begin to reopen in the state and around the country. It is also uncertain what types of social distancing measures will be recommended by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention prior to a vaccine being developed for the virus.

Based on pure speculation, my guess is it will be July or later.

It’s just as uncertain what type of movie-theater landscape it will be when businesses do re-open. Even if AMC restructures under Chapter 11 protection, it’s unknown if the Fiesta Square 12 would be a theater the company would re-open, keep closed, or attempt to sell.

In other movie news, “Barron’s” reported that Walt Disney Studios film “Artemis Foul” will not have a theatrical release according to Disney chairman Bob Iger, but it will be released through the Disney + streaming platform.

Iger told “Barron’s” other Disney films could be moved to Disney + or Hulu in the future, but tentpole movies like “Mulan” and “Black Widow” would be held until movie theaters are up and running again.

The Dave Bautista, family-friendly movie “My Spy” has joined “Trolls: World Tour” and “Lovebirds” as films intended from theatrical release that will go straight to VOD. Amazon bought “My Spy” and “Lovebirds” but has yet to announce when they will be released. “Trolls: World Tour” is available today.

Sight & Sound’s ‘Jesus’ plays on TBN

If you’ve been to Branson, Mo. in recent years or have seen local television commercials, you are probably familiar with Sight & Sound Theaters, which produce biblically based, family-friendly plays.

In celebration of Easter, the production company taped its adaption of the life of Jesus and had arranged for it to be shown in movie theaters across the country by Fathom Events.

However, when the coronavirus shut down movie houses, Sight & Sound Theaters pivoted and made the show labeled as “the greatest rescue story of all time” available on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) streaming app and website Friday through Sunday (April 10-12). TBN will also broadcast the play at noon Saturday (April 11).

“With people not being able to gather together to celebrate Easter, our hope is that by making this show available, we might all feel a sense of community and connection, as we watch the greatest rescue story of all time come to life in this unique way,” said Sight & Sound Chief Creative Officer Josh Enck in a press release.

While I haven’t seen Sight & Sound’s production of “Jesus,” I did enjoy seeing its show based on Bible story of “Noah” a number of years ago. The production values were impressive, and though a bit long, the play was entertaining.

Classic Corner – Easter on TBS

While Easter-themed films are nearly as popular as Christmas movies, Turner Classic Movies has more than a few movies cued up for Easter Sunday that are related to the holiday.

Here’s a schedule if you are interested or want to set your DVR.

4 a.m. The Silver Chalice (1954) Starring Paul Newman.
6:30 p.m Barabbas (1962) Starring Anthony Quinn.
11 a.m. Ben-Hur (1959) Starring Charlton Heston.
3 p.m. The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) Starring Max Von Sydow.
7 p.m. Easter Parade (1948) Starring Judy Garland and Fred Astair.
9 p.m. King of Kings (1961) Starring Jeffrey Hunter.

To me the best movie of the bunch is “Ben-Hur.” The William Wyler-directed film tells the story of Judah Ben-Hur, the Hebrew prince who became a slave determined to fight for his freedom from the Romans until he learns he can only be set free by letting go of his need for revenge and find compassion for his fellow man. The chariot race is one of the best action scenes ever committed to film.

That said “Easter Parade” is a charmer with Judy Garland splendidly teaming with Fred Astair in a musical romance that’s as light as a feather and very entertaining.

Neither movie really has all that much to do with Easter, but both are great fun and highly recommended.