Per usual, Hollywood studios dominated the spotlight this week at the exhibition industry’s annual CinemaCon confab. But AMC Entertainment CEO Gerry Lopez was the star of many private conversations about the future of the theater business. It isn’t just because the former Starbucks exec runs the second largest chain, with about 5,000 screens in 33 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, Hong Kong and the UK. Execs are closely monitoring Lopez’ two-year-old initiative to reduce the number of seats in many AMC theaters to make room for luxurious recliners — which come with a higher ticket price. It’s an adventurous departure in a business that typically tries to pack as many people as possible into venues.
Lopez also seems to enjoy speaking his mind, a rarity in exhibition where leaders tend to be private and circumspect. He has a good story to tell: AMC’s owner, China’s Wanda Group, offered a 22% stake to the public in December, and the shares since then have appreciated 26.4% — well ahead of other major theater chains and the overall market. I caught up to him at this week’s CinemaCon. Here are his thoughts, edited for length and clarity, on a few of the industry’s front burner issues.
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Not according to AMC, you don’t — which a Columbus, Ohio, man discovered the hard way Saturday night when he and his wife went through a 3 1/2-hour ordeal at the AMC Easton 30, where he wore his Google Glass with prescription lenses to a showing of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. For those who don’t follow tech news, Google Glass is a kind of eyewear that shows computer information to the user on a tiny screen — but also has a built-in camera capable of recording video. About an hour into the movie, the man told website Gadgeteer, “a guy comes near my seat, shoves a badge that had some sort of a shield on it, yanks the Google Glass off my face and says ‘follow me outside immediately’.” The official, with others, was from the Department of Homeland Security, which handles movie theft cases. The moviegoer said there was a misunderstanding and that he wasn’t recording anything. “They wanted to know where I got Glass and how did I came by having it.” After telling them that he had applied for the Google explorer program, “I offered to show them receipt and Google Glass website if they would allow me to access any computer with internet. Of course, that was not an option. Then they wanted to know what does Google ask of me in exchange for Glass, how much is Google paying me, who is my boss and why am I recording the movie.” Read More »
The addition of the No. 2 exhibition chain is a coup for MovieTickets.com — and a logical development following the settlement in November of the online ticketing company’s suit that charged AMC with a breach of contract when it went exclusively with Fandango.… Read More »
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Deadline Big Media podcast 65 (.MP3 version)
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The market’s early reaction to the stock this morning may lead underwriters to wonder whether they made a mistake in pricing AMC Entertainment at the low end of the $18-to-$20 per share range they initially set. In any event, CEO Gerry Lopez appears pleased. He tells CNBC that … Read More »
The No. 2 exhibition chain will trade on the NYSE under the symbol “AMC.” It will use the proceeds from the $331M offering to pay down some of its high-interest debt and for the catch-all “general corporate purposes.” The offering … Read More »
Listen to (and share) episode 62 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman. Deadline’s financial editor talks with host David Bloom about growing interest in some corners of Washington D.C. about crafting new communications policies for the Internet age; AMC’s best concession deal in decades with a stock deal for its customers; a report that suggests breaking up the pay-TV bundle would “devastate” consumers and the oligopoly that dominates the industry; and new government efforts to measure the economy that say the country’s creative industries generated $915 billion in 2011, and what that might mean for new policies for Hollywood.
Deadline Big Media podcast 62 (.MP3 version)
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This is unusual: The exhibition chain is telling members of its loyalty program today that a limited number of them, and other customers, can buy shares in AMC Entertainment without paying fees when it launches its $370M stock sale. “The price per share will be determined by negotiations between us and the underwriters of the IPO, but it will be the same price per share as offered to Wall Street investors,” CEO Gerry Lopez says in an email to Stubs members. (The price is key: The offer only makes sense if you think the stock’s value will appreciate after the IPO.) Customers who participate in the first-come-first-served effort will join employees who have a 24-hour head start on the general public. Read More »
Exhibition chains have done pretty well on Wall Street this year, so this planned stock offering may interest investors who want additional opportunities to bet on the industry. But the sale of 18.4M shares at between $18 and $20 a share won’t dramatically change AMC Entertainment — aside from putting it back under analysts’ microscopes. The No. 2 theater chain disclosed its IPO plan in August; today’s filing adds several details. It wants to trade on the New York stock Exchange under the symbol “AMC.” It expects to net $322.6M after paying underwriting expenses, and will use cash from the stock sale to retire some debt and for undefined “general corporate purposes.” It especially wants to ditch some 8.75% Senior Fixed Rate Notes that mature in 2019. AMC currently carries a lot of debt — about $2.2B — and warns that “if interest rates increase, we may be unable to meet our debt service obligations.” China’s Wanda Group, which paid more than $2.6B for AMC last year, will retain control. It’s selling Class A stock that entitles owners to one vote per share, and will keep the Class B stock with three votes per share. When the IPO is complete, Class A owners will control 7.8% of the votes while Class B holders have 92.2%. Read More »
Was the Dalian Wanda Group just whetting its Hollywood appetite with the $2.6B acquisition of AMC Entertainment? The president of the Chinese property developer has hinted as much in a recent interview with Reuters. According to … Read More »
The nation’s second-biggest theater chain has tried for an IPO more than once in the past, and the last effort was scotched last September after it was officially acquired by China’s Wanda Group in a deal worth … Read More »
The year started off badly for the theater chain owned by China’s Wanda Group. AMC Entertainment reports that it had a Q1 net loss of $7.46M, down from a $727,000 profit in the period last year, on revenues … Read More »
2ND UPDATE 2:30 PM: The largest domestic movie theater chain Regal Entertainment says this post is going up on its Facebook page: “Regal has Iron Man 3! After some extensive talks with Disney, we’re glad to say that Tony Stark will definitely be in our theatres for Iron … Read More »
Listen to (and share) Episode 27 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman as our Executive Editor and host David Bloom look at Crood attempts to revive the sagging shares of DreamWorks Animation; brightening numbers for two of the biggest exhibition chains; and what it might mean for Los Angeles and the entertainment business as a whole now that live-entertainment and sports giant AEG is off the market, and its long-time CEO has departed.
Deadline Big Media, Episode 27 (MP3 format)
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Like most of its peers, the No. 2 exhibition chain has good reason to look fondly at the results from 2012 — a year when industrywide domestic box office hit a record high of $10.8B. AMC Entertainment says it generated net income of nearly $58M for the year, up from a $242.4M loss in 2011, on revenues of $2.65B, +10.8%. Much of the increase was due to the 6.8% pickup in attendance, to 199M. With that and a 1.9% increase in the average ticket price, to $9.04, total admission revenues increased 8.8% to $1.79B. In addition, concession sales rose 12.3% to $743.4M. AMC didn’t include quarterly results in the report it filed at the SEC to account for changes in its fiscal year, which now will end in December instead of March. The report notes that CEO Gerald Lopez received $4.1M in compensation for the nine-month period that ended in December, up from $1.7M for the fiscal year that ended in March. Read More »
The soft results in an SEC filing this evening are consistent with some of the numbers we’ve seen elsewhere for the quarter — but with a lot of financial noise resulting from Wanda Group’s $2.7B acquisition … Read More »
Word is that the re-structuring will result in dozens of layoffs — in the field as well as at AMC’s new headquarters on the Kansas side of Kansas City. But the company says that it will lose two longtime execs with the closest ties to Hollywood: Film Programming President Sonny Gourley (a 37-year AMC vet) and film buyer Dave Hull (40 years). Many of their responsibilities will be taken on by Elizabeth Frank, who is being promoted to Chief Content and Programming Officer from SVP for Strategy where she managed AMC’s relationships with IMAX and National CineMedia, among other things. She will still report to CEO Gerry Lopez and remain on the board of Open Road Films (AMC’s joint venture with Regal) – but the company says she’ll also “take a growing and active role in working with our new parent company, The Wanda Group”. That’s the Chinese company that’s poised to pay $2.6B for AMC, most of it from assuming AMC’s enormous debt. Read More »
Wanda says its acquisition of AMC Entertainment should close at the end of August. The $2.6B deal — mostly from Wanda’s assumption of AMC debt — was cleared by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. and the Federal Trade Commission as well as China’s National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Commerce, and State Administration of Foreign Exchange. The company’s betting on U.S. exhibition at a time when the industry’s prospects are murky — and not simply due to last week’d tragedy in Aurora, Colo. Things look good now: Stock prices for chains including Carmike, Cinemark, and Regal have outperformed the overall market over the last few years — including over the last 12 months and year-to-date in 2012. Investors have been impressed by theaters’ ability to keep raising prices for tickets and concessions even as the number of admissions has either remained flat or declined. But consumers are starting to push back. For example, many chains have had to lower their pric- hike expectations for 3D movies. Studios also haven’t abandoned their hope to offer recently released movies on VOD, which theater owners say could cut into their sales.
Related: China’s Wanda Group Agrees To Pay $2.6B For AMC Entertainment
Here’s the release from Wanda and AMC: Read More »