AMC Theatres Has No Universal Movies Slated for Release

AMC Theatres is sticking to its guns, boycotting all new-release feature films from Universal Pictures. The world’s largest exhibitor June 9 revealed it remains in discussions with the studio regarding the latter’s plan to launch movies in theaters concurrent with premium VOD in the home.

“While we are in active dialogue with Universal, no movies made by Universal Studios are currently on our docket,” AMC CEO Adam Aron said in a statement.

AMC and Universal had a falling out after the studio’s PVOD release of Trolls World Tour generated an impressive $100 million in PVOD revenue in three weeks, resulting in studio boss Jeff Shell announcing all future theatrical titles would include concurrent digital retail distribution if possible.

Aron responded that AMC would boycott all future Universal and other studio titles earmarked for digital/theatrical distribution.

As previously disclosed, AMC formally revealed it lost $2.17 billion for the fiscal first quarter ended March 31. The exhibitor lost $130 million during the previous-year period. Revenue was $941.5 million, down 21.6% from revenue of $1.2 billion in the year-ago period.

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Leawood, Kansas-based AMC saw the wheels come off its business in mid-March when the movie theater industry worldwide essentially shut down due to the spread of the coronavirus. Indeed, Q1 revenue was up 10% through February compared with a year ago.

“In mid-March we were forced to pivot the entire company to respond to the effects of the pandemic,” CEO Adam Aron said in a statement.

Indeed, attendance in the quarter plummeted 24.2% to 60.4 million from 79.8 million in the previous-year period.

The CEO, who along with 600 other executives, was furloughed to cut costs, said the exhibitor strengthened its liquidity by working with landlords and studio partners to defer or abate theatre and film rents, respectively, as well as raising an additional $500 million of public market debt.

AMC’s Odeon Cinema unit in Europe just re-opened select screens in Oslo, Norway. In the U.S., the states of Georgia, Texas and California have greenlighted phased re-opening of select businesses, including movie theaters.

To that end, AMC has reopened 10 theaters in Norway, Germany, Spain and Portugal, and currently expects to be fully open globally in July. The company is planning to reopen almost all U.S. and U.K. theaters in July, to be positioned to showcase Warner Bros’ release of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet now slated for release July 17, followed by Disney’s Mulan now slated for release July 24.

Other pending titles include Unhinged, Saint Maud, Antebellum, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, Wonder Woman 1984, A Quiet Place Part II, The King’s Man, Black Widow, Soul, Dune, West Side Story and Top Gun: Maverick, among others.

“We are confident we are taking the necessary steps on a broad array of fronts to ensure AMC’s future success as we navigate these turbulent and uncertain times,” Aron said.

Regardless, AMC also disclosed that without a return to box office normality in the near future, it could face bankruptcy.

AMC Theatres Threatens to Drop Distribution of Universal Pictures Movies; Studio Responds

The world’s largest movie theater chain is fighting back against NBCUniversal’s plans to release at least some movies simultaneously to theaters and to homes.

On the heels of Universal Pictures’ animated feature film Trolls World Tour generating upwards of $100 million from premium video-on-demand and other digital channels in less than three weeks of release, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell April 28 told The Wall Street Journal the studio would pursue a simultaneous theatrical/home entertainment release strategy going forward.

“The results for Trolls World Tour exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD,” Shell said. “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.”

AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron promptly fired off a letter to the studio’s chairwoman, Donna Langley, saying it would no longer screen Universal movies if it turns a cold shoulder to the traditional 90-day theatrical window.

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“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,” Aron wrote in the letter. “Going forward, AMC will not license any Universal movies in any of our 1,000 theaters globally on these terms.”

AMC’s strategy mirrors exhibitor sentiment that has shunned Netflix original movies since the subscription streaming video behemoth releases its movies concurrently with any theatrical distribution.

Aron, along with 600 AMC executives, has been furloughed as the chain saw its business literally shuttered over night to help curb spread of the coronavirus. He said Shell’s comments suggest Universal is moving away from a long-term business model between AMC and Universal.

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Aron said the chain, which remains largely closed despite governors in select states authorizing the re-opening of theaters, would not distribute Universal — or any other studio’s content — globally if they stray away from the “theaters first” doctrine.

The executive said theatrical releases is a segue for future retail distribution, including boosting publicity, positive word-of-mouth, critical acclaim and downstream revenue. Aron said Universal wants to have its cake and eat it too by combining distribution channels.

“[Universal] assumes that we will meekly accept a reshaped view of how studios and exhibitors should interact, with zero concern on how its actions affect us,” Aron said.

He said AMC has invested significant time and energy with Universal executives over the past few years trying to figure out a new distribution models that would be beneficial both parties. Aron has previously mentioned helping studios distribute movies on its website and in theaters — the latter through packaged media.

“AMC is willing to sit down with Universal to discuss different windows strategies and different economic models between your company and ours,” Aron wrote. “However, in the absence of such discussions, and an acceptable conclusion thereto, our decades of incredibly successful business activity together has sadly come to an end.”

Universal Pictures, in a statement, called Aron’s letter disappointing. It said the decision to release Trolls World Tour on PVOD was done to offer consumers sheltering in home an alternative entertainment option.

“Based on the enthusiastic response to the film, we believe we made the right move,” Universal said. “In fact, given the choice of not releasing Trolls World Tour, which would not only have prevented consumers from experiencing the movie but also negatively impacted our partners and employees, the decision was clear.”

The studio said it still believes in the theatrical business model and said it has made no comment to contrary. It said it always seeks to make its movies available to as wide an audience as possible.

“We look forward to having additional private conversations with our exhibition partners, but are disappointed by this seemingly coordinated attempt from AMC and [trade group National Association of Theatre Owners] to confuse our position and our actions,” Universal said.

AMC Theatres Seeks $500 Million Lifeline

Coronavirus-challenged AMC Theatres April 16 said it plans to raise $500 million in private equity funds. The world’s largest theatrical chain has seen its 11,000 screens worldwide go dark since the pandemic forced businesses catering to large group gatherings to shutter.

With zero revenue coming in and weekly expenses topping $30 million, AMC furloughed 600 corporate jobs, including CEO Adam Aron. With its stock cratering and management telling landlords it wouldn’t rent, Wall Street began circling the wagons in anticipation of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

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With about $300 million in cash reserves at the end of March, and exhibitors not high on anyone’s essential business list (except their own), the proposed funding should keep the wolves at bay for awhile.

“Due to significant actions taken by the company, we believe our current cash balance is sufficient to withstand a global suspension of operations until a partial reopening in July,” AMC said in a regulatory filing. “After giving effect to the proposed notes offering, we believe the company will have sufficient liquidity to withstand a global suspension of operations until a partial reopening ahead of Thanksgiving.”

The news sent AMC shares up 37% in after-hours trading.

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CEO: AMC Theatres Hoping for Mid-June Re-Opening

AMC Theatres, the world’s largest exhibitor with 1,000 theaters and 11,000 screens, hopes to re-open domestic screens by mid-June, CEO Adam Aron told CNBC.

Speaking March 31, Aron said the industry remained on “uncharted times in our lifetimes,” while admitting to wishful thinking as the chain has seen revenue plummet to zero as local and state governments banned group gatherings of 10 or more people.

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“The summer has always been one of the biggest movie seasons of the year … and Christmas,” Aron said. “I would love to think that America will be enjoying summer movie season again. But nobody knows.”

Aron said America needs to get on the “other side of this virus” as a country. “So many businesses have been temporarily shuttered. People want to get out of the house and get back to normal. But that’s not going to happen in the next few days or the next few weeks.”

China had initiated limited theatrical openings only to reverse the decision the next day when new cases of coronavirus popped up. Beijing’s Film Bureau ordered the 600 re-opened Shanghai theaters shuttered on March 27.

Aron said China’s reopening just 60 days after the virus broke out seemed “a little too tight,” when compared with AMC’s decision to shutter all screens on March 17 for six to 12 weeks.

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The CEO said he saluted Congress for passing the $2.2 trillion relief bill, which he said would provide relief for AMC employees and “our communities.”

Aron believes the entertainment industry will bounce back quickly because “people want to be entertained.”

“The country is going to come back,” he said. “America will be normal again. We’re just going through an interruption. How quickly nobody knows. We’re all going to learn together.”


AMC Theatres Furloughs 600 Corporate Employees, Including CEO Adam Aron

Facing a disastrous business climate, AMC Theatres March 25 announced it was furloughing 600 employees at its corporate office in Leawood, Kan., including CEO Adam Aron.

The move is to save available cash, which the world’s largest movie exhibitor is hemorrhaging as its screens remain dark due to the global threat of the coronavirus.

“At this time, AMC is not terminating any of its corporate employees, however, we were forced under the circumstances to implement a furlough plan, which is absolutely necessary to preserve cash and to ensure that AMC can reopen our doors once this health crisis has dissipated,” AMC said in a statement.

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In a previous interview, Aron said AMC doesn’t want bailout money. Instead he said the chain wants loans that banks are unwilling to give due to the current uncertainty of the theatrical business model.

AMC rival Regal Cinemas, which operates more than 7,000 screens,  has reportedly furloughed about 90% of its workforce.

With a formal vote in the U.S. Senate ratifying a $2 trillion stimulus bill that would give families, small and large businesses, and some industries a fiscal lifeline still to come, AMC, Regal and other exhibitors have their backs to the wall trying to reduce overhead.

“The furlough plan calls for reduced working hours at reduced pay, or no working hours at no pay, for the hopefully short period of time when AMC’s theaters are all closed,” read the statement. “This action impacts every corporate AMC employee, including all those at the highest executive levels and including AMC’s chief executive officer.”

The National Association of Theater Owners, an industry trade/lobbying group, contends the theatrical business qualifies as a “distressed industry,” thus qualifying for federal assistance.

AMC Theatres CEO: ‘We Don’t Have a Penny of Revenue Coming In’

AMC Theatres is the largest movie exhibitor in the world with 1,000 theatres and 11,000 screens in 15 countries. They are all dark while fixed costs continue to pile up as the spread of the coronavirus wreaks economic and medical havoc in Europe, Asia and the United States.

Speaking to CNN, Adam Aron, CEO of AMC, said the chain literally does not have “a penny of revenue” coming in.

“Three weeks ago, AMC was an immensely healthly company,” Aron said. “And now with expenses out the door and no revenue, we are burning through cash and the liquidity we need, only the [federal] government is going to provide that.”

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In 2019, AMC Entertainment generated $5.5 billion in revenue with $770 million in pre-tax earnings. This week alone, Aron said the chain would spend $30 million to $40 million dollars just to stay in business. An amount, he said, that would continue weekly as the quarantine period continues.

“Our revenues this week are zero,” Aron said.

Aron said banks currently are overwhelmed with liquidity requests as businesses, large and small, seek funding to offset revenue sources wiped out as consumers are ordered to stay home to help negate the spread of the coronavirus that has sickened more than 300,000 people globally and killed more 13,000.

“We don’t need a bailout, we just need loans, which we will be able to pay back with interest when we re-open and revenues start coming back in the door,” Aron said.

The National Association of Theatre Operators has urged Congress to pass a reported $2 trillion relief bill for U.S. industries and citizens adversely impacted by the pandemic.

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AMC Theatres Shuts Down All Screens as More Cinemas Go Dark

Just hours after mandating all screens admit no more than 50 patrons per showing, AMC Theatres, the nation’s No. 1 movie theater chain, has pulled the plug on its venues in accordance with precautions being taken by businesses to stop the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19.

“All AMC theatres are temporarily closed in accordance with local and federal guidelines. They will re-open when those guidelines allow,” the nation’s largest exhibitor said on its website late Monday (March 16) night.

The move followed similar action taken by rival Regal Cinemas, which with 542 movie theaters and more than 7,000 screens is the country’s No. 2 chain of movie theaters.

AMC as of September 2019 has 1,000 theaters and 11,000 screens in 15 countries across the globe, according to its website.

Five other movie theater chains also went dark Monday, according to the Hollywood Reporter: Landmark, Harkins Theaters, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Showcase Cinemas and Bow Tie Cinemas.

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As a public venue, movie theaters, similar to ball parks, arenas, amusement parks and concert pavilions, have become off limits as local, state and the federal government seek to halt the spread of the virus — especially among the elederly and people with weakened immune systems.

All sporting events with large spectator attendance have been canceled or postponed, including the NCAA, high school and professional leagues.

With concern about the virus spread national and international frontpage news, movie theaters have already taken a major fiscal hit. Last weekend’s domestic box office was the lowest in more than 20 years.

While expressing disappointment on the new CDC guidelines mandating Americans should not gather in groups larger than 10 people, AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron said the health and well being of moviegoers and employees takes precedence.

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“We will continue to monitor this situation very closely and look forward to the day we can again delight moviegoers nationwide by reopening AMC movie theaters in accordance with guidance from the CDC and local health authorities,” Aron said in a statement.


Movie Theaters Struck Hard by Coronavirus Pandemic

Movie theaters are struck hard by the coronavirus pandemic, contending not just with studios pulling back scheduled releases but also with guidelines limiting attendance as well as complete shutdowns.

Following domestic exhibitors’ worst weekend box office in 20 years, AMC Theatres, the largest theatrical distributor company in the United States, on March 16 announced a new seating policy through April 30 in accordance with CDC recommendations on social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Dubbed the “50/50 Policy,” AMC is capping ticket availability to 50% of normal seating capacity, AMC will further limit attendance for each and every showtime in all its open U.S. theaters to a maximum of 50 people.

The day before, the mayors of Los Angeles and New York mandated the closure of all movie theaters in their cities.

In Los Angeles, the movie house closures were among temporary restrictions put in place by Mayor Eric Garcetti to stop large numbers of people from gathering in one place. The restrictions will remain in place at least through March 31 and also include:

  • All bars and nightclubs that do not serve food;
  • All live performance venues, bowling alleys, and arcades;
  • All gyms and fitness centers;
  • All private social clubs;
  • In addition, all restaurants and retail food are prohibited from serving food to dine-in customers (take out and delivery orders are allowed).

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order “limiting restaurants, bars and cafes to food take-out and delivery,” according to an official statement. “Nightclubs, movie theaters, small theater houses, and concert venues must all close.”

The order goes into effect March 17 at 9 a.m. Blasion said he took this “drastic step” because “the virus can spread rapidly through the close interactions New Yorkers have in restaurants, bars and places where we sit close together. We have to break that cycle.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has recommended a limitation on gatherings to a maximum of 50 people — although that is not a legal requirement for businesses in most U.S. jurisdictions. AMC also is complying with all governmental mandates to close certain theatres, restaurants or bars as may be applicable.

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AMC operates 1,000 theaters worldwide, including 11,000 screens.

“The health of our guests and employee teams comes first for AMC,” CEO Adam Aron said in a statement.

Internationally, movie theaters from China, South Korea and other southeast Asian countries to western European countries such as France, Italy and Spain have been ordered closed by governments.


AMC Theatres, Regal Cinemas Cutting Seating Space 50%

In an attempt to adhere to “social distancing” as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, AMC Theatres and Regal Entertainment Group said they would restrict theater seating by 50% in the United States to minimize physical contact between moviegoers.

AMC operates 1,000 theatres and 11,000 screens worldwide. Regal Cinemas operates 7,350 screens domestically.

Both chains through April 30 will cut seating — likely putting a drag on fiscal earnings. Calling it “uncharted” times in the country, AMC CEO Adam Aron said the new policy is in concert with public guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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“We are complying with all directives from federal, state and local health and government authorities, and with our unilateral move to reduce capacity and increase social distancing we are going beyond what governments are requiring of us,” Aron said in a statement.

“The health and safety of our customers and staff is very important to us. We are continuing to follow and monitor official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health organizations,” Regal said in a statement.

Aron said AMC remains committed to offering a clean, healthy, entertaining environment for patrons.

“The health and safety of our guests and theatre teams are of the utmost importance to AMC,” he said. “Therefore, AMC is proactively taking action to cut in half the number of tickets that we will make available at all our U.S. theatres. With this action, we are facilitating the ‘social distance’ between guests who still want to see movies on a big screen.”

Regardless, Wall Street is hammering exhibitor stocks with AMC Theatres’ share price down less than $3 compared to $17 a share earlier this year.

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AMC Theatres Hires Mark Pearson to Forge Streaming Video Alliances

As previously announced, AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest theatrical distributor, wants to roll out the carpet for third-party streaming video platforms.

The company March 9 announced the hiring of Mark Pearson, former EVP of business development, operations and strategy at 20th Century Fox Television, as its chief strategy officer.

In this newly created role, Pearson will head strategy, business development, alliances and partnerships to advance the global positioning of AMC.

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Based in Los Angeles, Pearson will attempt to hone AMC’s strategic direction, initially concentrating on forging alliances with streaming services that could benefit from partnering with AMC and its vast theater network in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.

Pearson brings nearly 20 years of film and TV studio and strategy experience to AMC. In 15 years at Fox TV, preceded by five years at Universal Pictures, he worked closely with studio management and distribution partners to identify and implement a range of growth initiatives.

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“Mark … is the perfect person to help AMC continue to innovate and create opportunities that benefit our existing studio partners, emerging streaming power houses, our customers and our shareholders,” CEO Adam Aron said in a statement. “His considerable experience in the SVOD space will greatly help AMC to create partnerships with streaming services including those from both established and emerging players.”