Coming to a theater near you: $3 movie tickets for one day

For one day, movie tickets will be just $3 in the vast majority of American theaters as part of a newly launched “National Cinema Day” to lure moviegoers during a quiet spell at the box office.

The Cinema Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the National Assn. of Theater Owners, on Sunday announced that Sept. 3 will be a nationwide discount day in more than 3,000 theaters and on more than 30,000 screens.

Major chains, including AMC and Regal Cinemas, are participating, as are all major film studios. Tickets will be no more than $3 for every showing, in every format.

Labor Day weekend is traditionally one of the slowest weekends in theaters. This year, the August lull has been especially acute for exhibitors. Cineworld, which owns Regal Cinemas, cited the scant supply of major new releases in its recent plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

But, if successful, National Cinema Day could flood theaters with moviegoers and potentially prompt them to return in the fall. Before each showing, ticket buyers will be shown 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 this summer’s record-breaking return to cinemas, we wanted to do something to celebrate moviegoing,” said Jackie Brenneman, Cinema Foundation president, in a 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.”

After more than two years of COVID-19, movie theaters rebounded significantly over the summer, seeing business return to nearly pre-pandemic levels. Films including “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. That trails 2019 totals by about 20%, but exhibitors have had about 30% fewer wide releases this year.

The top performer at the domestic box office this weekend was Sony Pictures’ horror film “The Invitation,” which opened to $7 million, according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore.

Rounding out the top five were Sony Pictures’ “Bullet Train,” which added $5.6 million in its fourth weekend for a North American cumulative of $78.2 million; Universal Pictures’ “Beast,” which collected $4.9 million in its second weekend for a North American cumulative of $20.1 million; Paramount Pictures’ “Top Gun: Maverick,” which grossed 1.3 million in its 14th weekend for a North American cumulative of $691.2 million; and Crunchyroll Studios’ “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero,” which made $4.6 million in its second weekend for a North American cumulative of $30.8 million.

Opening in wide release over the upcoming Labor Day weekend is the Focus Features comedy “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul,” starring Regina Hall, Sterling K. Brown and Nicole Beharie.

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.

Times staff writer Christi Carras contributed to this report.

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Coming to a theater near you: $3 movie tickets for one day

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