Good morning, MBA readers,
A contentious topic of debate in Hollywood has escalated into action between the largest U.S. theater operator and a major film studio. Leawood, Kansas-based AMC Entertainment has effectively banned all Universal Studios films from its theaters after a studio executive revealed plans to release upcoming movies to home audiences and theaters at the same time. While it’s uncertain how the eventual reopening of AMC’s theaters will be received by moviegoers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s largest mall operator hopes shoppers are ready to return as cities and states relax stay-at-home orders. Simon Property Group will reopen 49 of its malls, including three across Missouri, starting Friday. And as businesses and consumers adjust to reopening while trying to follow social distancing guidelines, a Kansas City-area startup is developing an app designed to put consumers at ease by allowing businesses to broadcast the size of their crowds in real time.
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Lawmakers pass sweeping state budget cuts
The Missouri House on Wednesday cut roughly $146 million in core state spending for the next fiscal year in anticipation of fewer tax dollars due to the coronavirus pandemic. They also shed more than $450 million in planned new spending, including a 2% raise for state employees. (Associated Press)
Lucas lays out ’10/10/10′ rules for reopening KC businesses
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas on Wednesday announced that some “nonessential” businesses may resume operations May 6. Most businesses will be allowed to reopen May 15, but they will be limited to 10% of their normal capacity or 10 people in the establishment. Businesses also will be required to sign in anyone who visits for longer than 10 minutes. (Kansas City Star)
Parson backs Trump’s meat production order
Gov. Mike Parson, who raises cattle himself, has voiced support for President Donald Trump’s order to keep meat processing plants open throughout the pandemic. The move comes as meat processors have closed several plants due to COVID-19 infections among workers. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Missouri towns move to lift shutdowns early
Eureka Mayor Sean Flower announced that his town of 10,000 will resume regular business on Monday, breaking with St. Louis County’s stay-at-home mandate which will remain through at least mid-May. Other areas including Clay, Franklin, Jefferson, Platte and St. Charles counties also plan to reopen May 4, when a statewide lockdown is lifted. (Associated Press)
Enterprise Holdings lays off over 2,000
The Clayton-based car rental giant has laid off 2,060 employees, including some permanent job cuts, due to the impacts of COVID-19. (St. Louis Business Journal)
Centene partners with lab company to expand COVID-19 testing
Under a new partnership with Quest Diagnostics, Clayton-based Centene will distribute 25,000 COVID-19 test kits per week to health centers in 10 states. (St. Louis Business Journal)
Simon Property Group to begin reopening 49 malls this week
Simon, the biggest operator of U.S. malls, will begin reopening 49 shopping centers starting Friday and take measures to encourage social distancing among shoppers. The group’s three malls in Missouri are set to reopen Monday. (Springfield Business Journal)
Missouri casinos won’t reopen before May 15
The state’s top gambling regulator said casinos will remain closed until at least May 15, when the Missouri Gaming Commission will “reevaluate everything.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Restaurant group slashes St. Louis employees’ hours amid pandemic
Florida-based Bloomin’ Brands, which owns Outback Steakhouse and other chains, has “significantly reduced” the number of hours worked by the “vast majority” of its workers, including 381 in St. Louis. In a filing this week, the company said it expects the change to be temporary. (St. Louis Business Journal)
More KC restaurants sue Cincinnati Insurance
Trezo Mare and Grand Street Cafe have joined a class-action lawsuit against The Cincinnati Insurance Co., alleging the insurer wrongly denied their claims for losses stemming from the pandemic. (Kansas City Star)
Mueller reports improved quarterly profits
The Springfield-based manufacturer of stainless steel equipment reported net income of $875,000 for the first quarter, compared to a net loss of about $1.1 million a year earlier. (Springfield Business Journal)
Schnucks expands food-to-go offerings
The St. Louis-based grocer is adding food from local restaurants to the roster of grab-and-go options available at some stores, including Nudo House STL, Crushed Red and Hot Box Cookies. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Springfield brewer recalls new seltzer
Mother’s Brewing Co. has issued a recall for its Ready Hard Seltzer drink, citing a quality control issue that was discovered after products hit store shelves. The brewer launched the new product last month to seize on the nationwide popularity of alcoholic seltzer beverages. (Springfield Business Journal)
Video gambling machine operator faces lawsuit
St. Louis-based Torch Electronics faces a lawsuit alleging the video slot machine operator broke state gambling laws and the state constitution. The lawsuit seeks class-action status and says plaintiffs should be able to recover money they have lost in the games, which are not licensed for “excursion gambling boats” as required by state law. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Say that again
“This radical change by Universal to the business model that currently exists between our two companies represents nothing but downside for us and is categorically unacceptable to AMC Entertainment.”
That’s what Adam Aron, CEO of AMC Entertainment, wrote in a letter announcing the Leawood, Kansas-based theater operator will no longer screen any Universal Studio films across its 1,000 venues, Vanity Fair reports. Aron’s declaration of war was prompted by a Wall Street Journal report this week that found that Universal’s “Trolls World Tour” made around $77 million in digital rental fees, as the pandemic keeps theaters closed. But what really caught Aron’s attention was one quote from NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell: “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.” That would effectively forgo the traditional theatrical window in which theaters get to show a movie before home release. Aron argues that the change is “breaking the business model and dealings between our two companies,” adding that AMC’s new ban extends to any filmmaker “who unilaterally abandons current windowing practices absent good faith negotiations.” NBCUniversal has brushed off AMC’s response, adding that its new business practice, as well as private talks with the company, will continue.
That’s about how much of its 160,000-person workforce Boeing plans to cut as the company looks to improve liquidity, Reuters reports. The aerospace and defense company, which has a manufacturing base in the St. Louis area, announced the moves Wednesday after reporting a second consecutive quarterly loss. Many of the cuts will be completed this year and include voluntary and involuntary layoffs at Boeing’s commercial aircraft division. “Our industry is going to look very different as a result of this pandemic,” Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun told investors. “We will be a smaller company for a while.” Boeing stock closed up about 5.9%, at $139 per share, but Standard & Poor’s lowered its credit rating of Boeing to BBB-.
Hello, my name is
This Kansas City-area startup hopes its software will help more local businesses be mindful of social distancing as they reopen in the coming weeks, Startland News reports. TileFive has developed People Count, which helps tally the number of people inside a place of business in real time. The app allows customers to see how busy a given business is before they arrive, which local businesses may find handy as they reopen during the pandemic. “A lot of customers aren’t going to feel comfortable coming to a business if it’s really packed,” TileFive founding partner Andrew Potter said. PeopleCount is currently in beta testing with more than 30 business users.
It’s been a pleasure doing business with you this morning.