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$3 movie tickets celebrate ‘great comeback year’ for theaters, industry exec says

National Association of Theater Owners CEO John Fithian joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss movie theaters nationwide pricing tickets at $3 on September 3 to celebrate National Cinema Day, the resurgence of cinema post-pandemic, the relaunch of MoviePass, and consumer demand.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: Welcome back to "Yahoo Finance Live". This Saturday, September 3 you can find $3 movie tickets at your local theater. The Cinema Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the National Association of Theater Owners announced that Saturday will be National Cinema Day in more than 3,000 theaters across 30,000 screens. For more on this, we welcome in John Fithian, National Association of Theaters Owners CEO, along with "Yahoo Finances" Alexandra Canal. Good to see you both.

I'll start with you. What type of demand do you think the industry will see. $3.00 ticket prices, that's a major discount, John.

JOHN FITHIAN: Well, we really hope Cinema Day this Saturday, September the 3, will draw millions and millions of patrons out to the cinema to celebrate what's been a great comeback here. We think we're going to have full auditoriums all across the country. So get your tickets now at $3, all shows, all formats, all screens of participating theaters. And the vast majority of the industry's participating.

ALEXANDRA CANAL: Hey, John. Despite it being a comeback year, there are some hurdles. We heard the news recently that Cineworld could potentially be filing for bankruptcy. They did cite a lack of big blockbuster releases through the fall months that could impact attendance.

How concerned are you when it comes to that dry up of content? And what do you think Cineworld warns about the industry right now?

JOHN FITHIAN: Well, the content issue right now is a recovery from the pandemic, because production, post-production, special effects are taking longer than people thought. Supply chain issues are involved as well. But what the moviegoers are showing is that when the movies are there, they are storming back to cinemas. We built up through the first seven months of the year to a July, which was the same type of attendance in box office as we had in July of 2019. And that's because there were movies in the market.

We got a little bit of slow supply now in movies in August and September. But we always have a cyclical dips. And we think we're coming back very strong in the fall and the winter. And so the regrowth, the resurgence of cinema coming out of the pandemic is alive and well.

- We got this $3 offering. We've got, of course, the AMC Stubs $5 Tuesdays that they were doing. With all of that in consideration, so much of the focus perhaps shifts then to the concessions and making sure that people are helping the theaters break even with some of the discounted tickets. How much do they have to do in concessions in order to see operational profits here at the end of the day?

JOHN FITHIAN: Well, let's bifurcate the issue of concessions on National Cinema Day September 3, because a lot of our operating members are going to offer great discounts and promotions on concessions as well. September 3 National Cinema Day is not about making money. It's about thanking our customers, our patrons for coming to cinemas in strong numbers during the summer. It's about getting a few people who haven't been back to the cinema in a while out and seeing upcoming content, special real only on cinema day of all the movies coming in the fall and winter of the rest of the year.

So it's about celebrating cinema and getting fired up for what's coming. Concessions over the long-term, of course, are an important part of our business model, in addition to the ticket prices. So Cinema Day is an exception to all of that. We just want everybody to come out, have a great time, and celebrate the rebirth of the cinema.

ALEXANDRA CANAL: Speaking of rebirths, John, MoviePass-- back from the dead. I'm curious to get your thoughts on that. And the theater chains that are under your organization, how are they reacting to the return?

JOHN FITHIAN: Well, it's not my job as a Trade Association Leader to comment on specific business models. But I'll just say that generally any effort to try to drive movie attendance is a good thing, right? And there are a variety of different discount models, subscription models out there. And we just want consumer choice.

The great thing about the cinema experience is that there are lots of choices in experiences and in pricing as well. You can go to a big premium large format and get the best experience with the best technology at the higher price. Or you can go to a smaller theater without that kind of technologies and have a lower price. You can do a loyalty program. You can do subscriptions. It's all about offering consumers choice as they come back to the cinema.

BRIAN SOZZI: John, I'll tell you, you could sign me up for a box of $0.50 Raisinets. I think they still sell Raisinets at concession stands. One of my faves.

Let me ask you this, we just had AMC CEO Adam Aron really hyping the fourth quarter release schedule. Do you see a couple potential blockbuster movies in there that should help the likes of AMC?

JOHN FITHIAN: Oh, absolutely. All of our members are excited about the upcoming slate. I mean, first in the early fall, there's just a wide range of titles that appeal to all kinds of audiences-- family-friendly films like "Lyle, Lyle Crocodile," superhero movie in October called "Black Adam," romantic comedies like "Ticket to Paradise," and a whole bunch of really exciting prestige films, like "Amsterdam" or "Till," or "Don't worry, Darling," or the "Woman King," both of which come out in September. But then Adam is absolutely right about the last quarter of this year.

It's going to be a run for the races on who has the biggest grossing movie of the year with "Black Panther, Wakanda Forever" coming out in November. And then "avatar, The Way Of Water" in December. Both of those movies are going to give "Top Gun" a run for its money on the biggest grossing movie of the year. So we're excited both about the mid-budget and prestige films coming, but of course, we're excited about those big blockbusters too.

ALEXANDRA CANAL: And John, finally, as we near Labor Day, what grade would you give the summer box office, because we had a lot of high moments, but we also had a few disappointments in there as well?

JOHN FITHIAN: Well, as a comeback summer, it was an A, Right did we equal the same kind of box office we've had in pre-pandemic years? No, because we didn't have quite enough movies in the marketplace. In the first seven months of the year, we did 71% of the business we did in the same period in 2019 on 70% of the movies.

In other words, when the movies are there, the patrons are coming back in the same record-breaking kind of numbers that came pre-pandemic.

- John Fithian is the National Association of Theater Owners CEO, as well as "Yahoo Finances" Alexandra Canal. Thank you both for the time. Appreciate it.

JOHN FITHIAN: Thank you for having me.