Even if your local movie theater is open for business, you might not want to go in, especially to see a popular show where every seat is occupied. Health experts warn that being indoors, breathing the same air as groups of people, puts you at a higher risk for contracting the coronavirus, which is known to be airborne, even if everyone wears a mask.
If you still want the silver screen experience, but with a smaller group you know and trust, US movie theater groups such as AMC, Cinemark and Alamo Drafthouse will rent you a room for private showings.
We'll tell you how to get started with the rental process, how many people you can invite, what the rules are on theater snacks and more. Note that theaters may have specific rules in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and, as always, that you assume a certain level of personal risk as you participate in activities outside your home. With that said, here's what you need to know about hosting your own movie theater showing.
How to rent a theater room
To rent a theater room at AMC, you'll need to visit amctheaters.com/rentals and fill out the form provided. This includes the movie you'd like to see, date, time and theater. You'll also need to provide your email address and your name. AMC says you need to book the theater at least one week in advance.
For Cinemark, visit cinemark.com/movies/private-watch-party and select a location and date to see availability. Choose a time that works best for you and select the movie you'd like to show, then tap Add to cart and checkout.
For Alamo Drafthouse, visit drafthouse.com/personal-theater and select your location from the dropdown menu. Tap Check Availability, then select the movie you'd like to view and your party size. Next, enter your contact, payment card information and any special requests, then click Schedule Event.
How many people can I invite?
- AMC: Up to 20 people.
- Cinemark: Up to 20 guests.
- Alamo: Up to 30 people at some locations; up to 10 at others.
How much does it cost to rent a private theater and is it worth it?
AMC: The price varies, depending on which movie you select. For example, older movies cost $99 plus tax, whereas new movies cost between $149 to $349 plus tax.
Cinemark: Prices range from $99 to $149, depending on showtime, location and movie selection.
Alamo: No matter which movie you choose, your price will be $163. A minimum food and drink purchase of $150 is required, however, and tickets are not included.
Renting your own anything usually isn't cheap, but sharing the cost with others can keep the price more reasonable. Let's say your movie costs $350 and you invite 10 people, that's $35 per person, minus tax, for a huge screen and the freedom to laugh out loud without anyone shushing you or sticking their feet in the back of your chair.
Space out 20 people throughout the theater and that'll cost you $17.50 per person, without tax.
At the end of 2019, average movie theater ticket prices in the US were $9.37, according to The Wrap, with potentially hundreds of seats per theater. So while you may pay twice or four times what you're used to per ticket, you get significantly more personal space, as well.
Which movies are available to watch?
Depending on the theater, you could see these titles:
- The New Mutants
- Hocus Pocus
- Monsters, Inc.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas
- Jumanji: The Next Level
- The Lost Boys
- The War with Grandpa
Here's the list of movies available at AMC, Cinemark and Alamo Drafthouse.
Can I bring my own food?
- AMC: Yes, but you'll have to pay a $250 fee to the theater and the food can't be anything that requires a heating element or that the theater sells. For example, you can't bring in outside popcorn.
- Cinemark: Yes, to an extent -- you're allowed to bring cupcakes, but not cake. It also asks that you don't bring food, candy or beverages that are offered at its concession stand.
- Alamo: No. You must make a minimum food and drink purchase of $150 at the theater, per group. This includes alcoholic beverages.
Will the movie theater snack bar be open?
Yes, for all three theaters, but the food options may be limited.
How long will I have the room?
- AMC: Your rental theater room fee covers 15 minutes leading up to the start of the movie until the end. If you'd like to request additional time, it'll cost you a hefty fee of $250 per 30 minutes.
- Cinemark: Your rental theater room fee covers 15 minutes leading up to the start of the movie until the end.
- Alamo: Your rental theater room fee covers 15 minutes leading up to the start of the movie until the end.
Are the theaters sanitized between showings?
- AMC: Yes, the auditoriums are cleaned between each showing.
- Cinemark: Yes, auditoriums and seats are sanitized before each screening, as well as handrails, armrests, tables, footrests and cup holders.
- Alamo: Yes, all auditoriums will be thoroughly disinfected between each screening.
Do I have to wear a mask inside the private room?
- AMC: Masks are required inside the theater, but can be removed when eating and drinking inside the auditorium.
- Cinemark: Yes, face masks are required inside the theater. Masks may be removed when eating and drinking inside the auditorium.
- Alamo: Mask wearing inside the theater room is up to you unless a state mandate is in effect. In all other public areas of the theater, however, you must wear a mask.