NEW YORK (AP) — “National Cinema Day” on Saturday brought the big screen to moviegoers for a small price — no more than $3 — as American theaters looked to fill seats during the late summer lull.
The one-day nationwide promotion was being offered on more than 30,000 screens in more than 3,000 theaters, including the major chains of AMC and Regal Cinemas. The Cinema Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the National Association of Theater Owners, announced the plan Aug. 28 and said all major film studios also were participating.
Labor Day weekend is traditionally one of the slowest weekends in theaters.
National Cinema Day is intended to flood theaters with moviegoers and prompt them to return in the fall, inspired by a sizzle reel of upcoming films from A24, Amazon Studios, Disney, Focus Features, Lionsgate, Neon, Paramount, Sony Pictures Classics, Sony, United Artists Releasing, Universal and Warner Bros.
After more than two years of pandemic, movie theaters rebounded significantly over the summer, seeing business return to nearly pre-pandemic levels. Films like “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Minions: Rise of Gru,” “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and “Jurassic World Dominion” pushed the domestic summer box office to $3.3 billion in ticket sales as of Aug. 21, according to data firm Comscore.
But that trails 2019 totals by about 20% as exhibitors have had about 30% fewer wide releases this year. Cineworld, which owns Regal Cinemas, cited the scant supply of major new releases in confirming recent discussions of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing.
Organizers of National Cinema Day described the event as a trial that could become an annual fixture. While some other countries have experimented with a similar day of cheap movie tickets, the initiative is the first of its kind on such a large scale in the U.S.
“After this summer’s record-breaking return to cinemas, we wanted to do something to celebrate moviegoing,” said Jackie Brenneman, Cinema Foundation president, in an Aug. 28 statement. “We’re doing it by offering a ‘thank you’ to the moviegoers that made this summer happen, and by offering an extra enticement for those who haven’t made it back yet.”