AMC Entertainment shines when the lights go down. The company, whose initials once stood for American Multi-Cinema, is the #2 movie theater chain in the US (behind Regal Entertainment). It owns, partially owns, or operates about 350 theaters with 5,000 screens, most of which are in megaplexes (units with more than 14 screens and stadium seating). Nearly all of its theaters are in the US, though it does have a few in Europe. AMC also owns about 25% of MovieTickets.com. Chinese investment firm Wanda Group bought AMC in 2012 and took the company public again in 2013.
The 2013 IPO was AMC’s third attempt to trade on a US stock exchange in recent years. In 2012 it shelved plans to go public after being acquired by Wanda for about $2.6 billion in one of the biggest moves by a Chinese company to enter a major US market. AMC plans to use the $331 million in proceeds from the 2013 IPO for general corporate purposes. Even as a public company, Wanda remains its majority shareholder.
AMC generates about 70% of its revenue from ticket sales, while more than 25% comes from the concession stand. The company also sells digitally projected on-screen advertising and pre-show entertainment videos through its National CineMedia joint venture with Regal and Cinemark. It is the largest IMAX exhibitor in the world, with a 44% market share in the US.
The company has theaters in all major US markets, as well as one theater in Canada, one in the UK, and a partial interest in two in Hong Kong. It once had international holdings, but has spent the last several years divesting the majority of its theaters in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, and Uruguay as part of its strategic focus on the US.
In fiscal year 2012 AMC generated a net loss of $82 million, an improvement from the $122.9 million loss it reported in 2011. Its revenues, however, grew 6.7% to $2.6 billion. Revenue gains in 2012 were primarily the result of AMC's acquisition of Kerasotes ShowPlace Theatres, as well as a slight increase in attendance and average ticket price. The loss was mainly due to an impairment charge related to the value of its investment in 3D technology-provider RealD, as well as costs associated with its AMC Stubs guest frequency program.
AMC is busy upgrading its technologies that allow theaters to charge higher ticket prices. It is in the process of converting all of its theaters to digital cinema, and in 2013 96% of its screens were digitally equipped with Sony 4K or similar digital projectors. In addition, 2,200 of its screens are 3D enabled. It has installed 3D systems in its theaters through a partnership with RealD. To make the digital conversion more fiscally palatable, it leases digital projectors from Digital Cinema Implementation Partners, a joint venture with rivals Cinemark and Regal. In addition, it has 135 IMAX 3D screens and introduced a new proprietary large-screen digital format, ETX, at more than 15 locations. These premium screens – 3D, ETX, and IMAX – amount to an additional $4 per ticket in ticket sales.
Besides increasing theater technology, AMC is also using enhanced food and beverage options to entice movie lovers. Its dine-in theaters combine the dinner and a movie experience with full kitchen facilities, seat-side servers, and a separate bar and lounge area. The company has converted about a dozen smaller theaters with the new dine-in theatre option and plans to open 20 more in the next five years. In addition, it is testing another food and beverage concept in conjunction with Union Square Hospitality Group named DIT Express. With DIT Express, currently offered at two theaters, guests order food and drinks in the lobby and the order is delivered to their reserved seat.
Mergers and Acquisitions
While AMC has been busy divesting its international holdings, the company has expanded its US holdings with small acquisitions. In late 2012 it bought 10 theaters (about 150 screens) from Rave Cinemas for $89 million. The year before it bought 92 theaters (928 screens) from Chicago-based Kerasotes ShowPlace Theatres, the nation's sixth-largest movie chain. A majority of the former Kerasotes properties feature stadium seating, and nearly 90% were built in the years since 1994. To satisfy anti-trust regulators, AMC sold nine theaters to rival Regal Entertainment for about $275 million.