CEO: AMC Theatres Open to All Business Ideas

NEWS ANALYSIS — Following a second-quarter fiscal report that saw just 45% (22 million) of AMC Theatres’ moviegoing traffic return compared with the same period in pre-pandemic 2019, CEO Adam Aron is open to discussions with just about any potential business partner to bring customers back to the cinema.

Aron he wants customers in his theater seats consuming just about anything on the screen. That mindset was clear on the Aug. 9 fiscal call where Aron revealed the world’s largest exhibitor would begin accepting cryptocurrency as payment in its theaters by the end of the year.

“We are simultaneously writing the code right now to accept Apple Pay and Google Pay for online purchases at our U.S. theaters,” Aron said.

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Back in 2019, when Disney led all studios with $11 billion in box office revenue, Aron said the chain would begin selling movie DVDs (i.e. Frozen) in theater lobbies. It’s an idea that never left the launch pad with the arrival of COVID-19, among other issues.

AMC had a net loss of $344 million on revenue of $444.7 million in Q2. The company has about $1.8 billion in cash after raising 66% of that from equity sales in the first quarter. The chain needs revenue drivers. And Aron said he would entertain any idea that could make that happen. He said the company even considered investing in drive-in theaters during the height of the pandemic.

“We came to the conclusion that they’re a bad economic idea,” Aron confessed. “It sounds appealing, yes, to your stay in your car, but there are two problems: Go into a parking lot and look at how much asphalt is needed to park cars on a lot. The viewing experience at a drive-in theater is not necessarily great, because many people are quite far from the screen.”

And so died the AMC Drive-In.

On the call, Aron was asked whether AMC would consider partnering with video game retailer GameStop offering expanded in-theater “experiences” with local and national gaming competitions. The president of Epic Games is a member of AMC’s board of directors.

“I cannot even count the number of times that our shareholders have asked us to reach out and partner with GameStop,” Aron said. “We’re on the case, more to come.”

For Aron, that’s just scratching the surface. The chain is considering screening musical concert movies, professional sporting events and e-sports, among other attractions.

“Wasting no time, we’ve immediately started to implement these very good ideas,” Aron said. “Our first two UFC matchups, which were in July, drew significant attendance to our theaters.”

AMC’s first two concert movies, with Chance the Rapper, and Halsey, will show on screens across the country later this month.

“We’re quite optimistic that this alternative programming can be built into a real revenue opportunity for AMC in future years, and we’re chasing it hard,” Aron said. “We also hope to engage in meaningful dialog with professional sports leagues and collegiate sports conferences to see if we can obtain the rights to show more sporting events at our theaters.”

Warner Bros., AMC Theatres Agree to 45-Day Theatrical Window in 2022

AMC Entertainment Aug. 9 disclosed it has inked an agreement with Warner Bros. Pictures  for a 45-day theatrical window on the studio’s 2022 new-release movies at AMC Theatres — a shortened window similar to the studio’s existing deal with Regal Cinemas signed in April.

AMC protested last year when WarnerMedia announced it would distribute Warner Bros.’ entire 2021 theatrical slate concurrently on HBO Max. AMC had initially agreed to the concept for the studio’s initial release, Wonder Woman 1984, citing the ongoing pandemic. But the exhibitor’s tone changed when it realized the the box office/streaming strategy was more than a one-off deal.

“It’s no secret that AMC was not at all happy when Warner decided in December to take movies to the home on HBO Max simultaneously with the theatrical release,” CEO Adam Aron said on the company’s second-quarter (ended June 30) fiscal call. “Therefore, it’s especially gratifying that Warner Bros. is yet again embracing a theatrical window. It’s especially pleasing to be working so harmoniously with Warner Bros. once again.”

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Aron said the exhibitor, which struck revenue-sharing agreements with Universal Pictures to accommodate the studio’s expedited move toward retail channels, including PVOD, is in discussions with other studios.

“We actually are in active dialogue with every major studio on this very important topic,” Aron said. “We are hearing considerable support in Hollywood that an exclusive theatrical window is an important way to build big and successful movie franchises. Clearly, though, this whole subject is quite topical. It’s very much a work in progress.”

Indeed, a return to quasi normalcy resulted in AMC generating $444.7 million in revenue, up from just $18.9 million during the previous-year period when the pandemic had most domestic screens shuttered. Through six months of the fiscal year, revenue is down 38.3% to $593 million, from $960.4 million in the same period in 2020. The net loss decreased to $344 million, from $561.2 million. Through the half-year, revenue is down to $911.2 million, from $2.73 billion in 2020.

“AMC is playing on offense again,” Aron said.

AMC Entertainment Looking to Acquire Former Arclight Cinemas, Pacific Theatres Leases; Sells $230.5 Million Worth of Shares to Private Equity Group

AMC Entertainment, corporate parent of AMC Theatres, June 1 announced it has entered into an agreement to raise $230.5 million of cash from the sale of 8.5 million shares of Class A Common stock to Mudrick Capital Management. The equity, which represents about 1.7% of AMC’s outstanding stock, was raised at a price of about $27.12 per share.

AMC said the cash proceeds from the sale would be used to acquire third-party theater leases and enhance the consumer appeal of existing theaters. In addition, AMC said it also intends to use the cash for “deleveraging” opportunities, or the reduction of debt.

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“AMC is being presented with highly attractive theater acquisition opportunities,” CEO Adam Aron said in a statement. “We are in discussions with multiple landlords of superb theaters formerly operated by Arclight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres [in Los Angeles]. With our increased liquidity, an increasingly vaccinated population and the imminent release of blockbuster new movie titles, it is time for AMC to go on the offense again.”

Chinese Wanda Group Exits AMC Theatres Ownership

Dalian Wanda Group, the multi-industry Chinese company that acquired AMC Entertainment for $2.6 billion in 2012, has quietly liquidated most of its shares in the world’s largest theatrical exhibitor.

Wanda America Entertainment May 21 in a regulatory filing disclosed reducing its AMC stake to stake to 0.002% — down from 6.8% in early April. The company has been reducing its shares as the pandemic continued undermining much of the exhibitor business worldwide through closures, limited movies from studios and reduced seating capacity, among other issues.

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In addition, Wanda saw its shares in AMC further diluted earlier this month when the exhibitor sold 43 million shares to institutional investors, raising $428 million in new equity funding in the process.

“Wanda has been a terrific shareholder of AMC for almost a decade,” CEO Adam Aron said in a statement. “Under their ownership, AMC became the biggest movie theater operator in the world. Importantly, Wanda also has supported our reinvesting billions of dollars to upgrade and enhance our network of theaters for the benefit of moviegoers throughout the United States, Europe and the Middle East. I salute Wanda for the immensely constructive role they played in building our company, and want to express my sincerest appreciation and affection for their wise counsel and friendship.”

Interestingly, AMC shares are up more than 470% this year largely due to individual day traders crowdsourcing moves on the exhibitor, and separately video game retailer GameStop, via Reddit forums.

 

AMC Theatres CEO Open to Concurrent Streaming Windows — Depending on Fiscal Terms

It’s not often the CEO of a company that lost $946 million in its most-recent fiscal quarter, and $4.6 billion for the fiscal year, is giddy with excitement. Nor is it common to hear the same executive say he’s not opposed to concurrent streaming/theatrical distribution.

But it was all there in virtual color on AMC Entertainment’s March 10 fiscal call spearheaded by CEO Adam Aron.

When asked about Disney, Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures’ efforts to shorten the theatrical window for specific titles and slates of movies, Aron said change and thinking outside the box has been part of AMC’s DNA for years. He recalled signing onto the 2016 concept, dubbed “Screening Room,” from Napster founder Sean Parker that would have made new-release movies available in consumer homes concurrently with their theatrical launches.

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“That never took off … but over the past several years, [we have] indicated in private conversations with every major studio that we were willing to be the most experimental movie circuit around with respect to windows strategies that were different than the traditional norm,” Aron said.

But with change and experimentation, the executive stressed there always had to be a positive for AMC and its shareholders; not just the studios.

“When we couldn’t strike deals with studios on shorter windows, we resisted them with all of our might,” Aron said. “This is an area I feel very good about.”

He recalled the exhibitor’s very public 90-day letter writing campaign with Universal Pictures that resulted in a landmark agreement enabling the studio to distribute theatrical titles directly into homes within 17 days of their box office debut, depending on ticket sales.

“It suggested there were alternate ways of distribution,” Aron said.

Fast-forward to Warner’s HBO Max announcement that the studio would release its entire 2021 theatrical slate simultaneously on WarnerMedia’s upstart subscription streaming video platform.

“We put out a very clear statement: That we were not willing to let Warner advantage its streaming service at AMC shareholder’s expense,” Aron said.

Yet, it doesn’t take a sleuth to notice that AMC is screening Warner Bros. movies such as Judas and the Black Messiah and Tom & Jerry — both of which are also streaming on Max.

“You should probably assume that if we’re playing Warner Bros. movies, we came to an agreement with the studio that benefits our shareholders,” Aron said without elaborating.

The executive said AMC is willing to engage with every major studio on the same topic, arguing that since the exhibitor has been business partners with all the major studios for decades, it can adjust business relationships.

“They can support their streaming services and theatrical leases, and do so not at our expense,” Aron said, adding that discussions with studios where the window policy has changed, “we think we have come out ahead and not behind.”

Separately, as of March 5, about 90% of AMC Theatres domestic screens were open. The exhibitor is slated to re-open screens in Alameda, Calif., which includes Oakland and East Bay on March 12, with a possible reboot in SoCal possibly by March 19.

To put the magnitude of a Los Angeles market re-opening into perspective, the “designated market area” is about double the size of the NY City market. Indeed, almost 33% of all AMC domestic movie viewing dollars is generated in just four states: California, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. AMC permanently closed 60 underperforming theaters, including 48 domestically and 12 internationally in 2020.

“The New York re-opening is a harbinger of things to come,” Aron said. “We are like La Guardia Airport closed by a thunderstorm with tons of planes circling above, all waiting to land and all needing to land.”

The executive said the week will mark the 100th million vaccination in arm nationwide, with another 60 million to 90 million injections scheduled monthly.

“The real salvation of our company will be because of vaccinations,” Aron said, adding that in his eyes, the most important person in the entire movie business is Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer.

“He and his talented colleagues, and those of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are who have given us our new fortitude,” Aron said, adding he had the privilege of thanking Albert firsthand for saving AMC.

“And those sentiments of thanks were never more deserved,” he said.

 

AMC Theatres Posts $4.58 Billion Fiscal Loss in 2020

There was only one fiscal winner at AMC Theatres in 2020: CEO Adam Aron. As expected, the world’s largest movie exhibitor March 10 reported a $4.58 billion loss for the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2020. The chain, which has been operating about 67% of its domestic screens with government-mandated limited seating capacity limited to 20% to 40% due to the pandemic, lost $946.1 million in the fourth quarter, despite reporting attendance of more 8 million moviegoers worldwide in the quarter.

Revenue for the quarter dropped 89% to $162.5 million from $1.45 billion in the previous-year period. For the year, revenue tumbled 77% to $1.24 billion, from $5.5 billion.

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AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron

“This past year has presented AMC with the most challenging
market conditions in the 100-year history of the company,” Aron said in a statement. “As unprecedented as these times have been, so too is the unprecedented drive and commitment of the AMC team to take swift and decisive actions to ensure our survival and our success.”

Indeed, despite partial re-openings, attendance in the quarter plummeted 91% to 8 million, from 92.5 million in the previous-year period. For the fiscal year, attendance fell 79% to 75.1 million, from 356.4 million in 2019.

Aron, who saw his total 2020 compensation double to $20.9 million, which included $5 million in bonuses, said better days are just around the corner for exhibitors.

“As we sit here today, we see that vaccinations are occurring in the U.S. at a brisk clip, our theaters in New York City have finally opened, with theaters in Los Angeles likely opening shortly as well, blockbuster movie titles are currently scheduled to be released in significant quantity in the coming few months, and we have more than $1 billion of cash on hand,” Aron said. “Taking these facts together, we have reason to be optimistic about AMC’s ability to get to the other side of this pandemic.”

AMC Entertainment Selling 50 Million Shares for $125 Million

Fiscally challenged AMC Entertainment, parent of world’s largest movie theater chain, AMC Theatres, is selling 50 million shares of Class A Common Stock to generate about $125 million in much-needed funding.

AMC said it will use the proceeds for “general corporate purchases, which include repayment, refinancing, redemption, or repurchase of outstanding debt.”

AMC shares are down 68% in 2020 after the pandemic all but shuttered the chain’s business in mid-March as the coronavirus began to spread. Earlier this month, AMC announced it had enough funds to keep the doors open through January.

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Headquartered in Leawood, Kansas, AMC celebrated its 100th birthday this year. The chain is the largest operator of movie theaters in world; as of December 2020 it has a global count of 960 theaters and 10,700 screens, down from  1,004 theaters and 11,041 screens at the beginning of this year, according to its corporate website.

Regal Cinemas Owner Eyes New Warner Release Window; AMC Entertainment CEO Livid

Reaction from Warner Bros.’ landmark decision to effectively scuttle the theatrical window on all new movie releases in 2021 has run the gamut of emotions among exhibitors.

Adam Aron, CEO of AMC Theatres parent AMC Entertainment, blasted the decision, contending WarnerMedia is sacrificing “a considerable portion of the profitability of its movie studio division” to help jumpstart SVOD platform HBO Max. Aron said the decision also negatively affects filmmakers and production partners.

AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron

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“We have already commenced an immediate and urgent dialog with the leadership of Warner on this subject,” Aron said in a statement.

The CEO over the summer hammered out a reduced theatrical window agreement with Universal Pictures, which affords the studio PVOD distribution into homes 17 days (at least three weekends) after theatrical release on titles with less than $50 million box office. AMC also shares in the PVOD revenue.

Aron had been understanding of Warner’s decision to release DC superhero sequel Wonder Woman 1984 in theaters and HBO Max on Christmas Day. But an entire year’s film slate is another issue.

“As this issue gets sorted out, we are nonetheless encouraged that vaccines protecting society at large against the coronavirus are very much at hand,” Aron said. “So, it is our expectation that moviegoers soon will be able once again to delight in coming to our theaters without any worry — viewing the world’s best movies safely in our big seats, with our big sound and on our big screens.”

Read Also: Warner Bros. Releasing All Movie Releases Same Day on HBO Max, Theaters in 2021

Meanwhile, Cineworld, owner of No. 2 (and temporarily shuttered due to the pandemic) exhibitor Regal Cinemas, with more than 7,000 screens in the U.S., said it expects to iron out a new distribution agreement with Warner going forward.

In a statement, Cineworld said it understood Warner’s decision to bow Wonder Woman 1984 directly to Max due to the theater closings. It also remains “very encouraged by the giant steps achieved” with regards to the coronavirus vaccination process, which it expects will be put in place earlier than previously anticipated.

“This will generate significant relief for our industry and enable our cinemas to make a great comeback,” Cineworld said.

The exhibitor said that when a vaccine is available, it would look to reach an agreement with Warner about release windows and financial terms that will work for both sides.

“Big movies are made for the big screen and we cannot wait to reopen our cinemas in [the first quarter] in order to offer our customers, as always, the best place to watch a movie,” Cineworld said.

AMC Announces Private Theater Rentals for as Low as $99

As the pandemic keeps movie theater attendance low, AMC Entertainment has announced the official launch of private theater rentals for as low as $99 for up to 20 people.

The rentals are accessible through an automated booking and purchase system on the AMC website and mobile app. The launch comes four weeks after the initial beta launch of the product, which resulted in 110,000 inquiries around the country, dwarfing the total number of AMC’s private theater rentals in all of 2019 (26,000) by more than four times, according to AMC.

Guests can book a private showing at amctheatres.com/rentals or by updating and using the AMC Theatres mobile app. They select a movie that’s playing in their local theater, the time and date of their requested showtime, confirm and checkout. Rentals must be made at least one day in advance and are subject to availability at the theater.

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New releases, such as Tenet, The War With Grandpa and Freaky, are available starting at $149 plus tax, up to $349 plus tax, depending on location and theater. The rental charge covers the cost of up to 20 tickets, and there is no additional required charge or minimum food and beverage charge as part of the rental. Outside food and drink may not be brought into the screening.

AMC Safe & Clean policies and protocols include mandatory mask wearing and appropriate social distancing within the auditorium. In addition, AMC abides by all state and local directives regarding movie theater operations, and in rare cases, the total allowed guest count may be less than 20 to comply with state and local directives.

“The results and feedback from our guests about AMC Safe & Clean have been overwhelmingly positive, and private theater rentals at AMC provides an additional layer of safety and security to those moviegoers who are looking to see movies with just their family members and friends,” Elizabeth Frank, EVP of worldwide programming and chief content officer, said in a statement. “It’s unprecedented for AMC to receive 110,000 contacts in four weeks about a private theater rental, based only on word of mouth and organic publicity, and we are excited about and appreciative of the interest this has sparked among AMC guests.”

AMC Theatres Warns It Will Be Out of Cash by the End of the Year

With a delayed release slate and moviegoers wary of COVID-19, AMC Entertainment, parent to the world’s largest theatrical chain, said it will be out of cash by the end of the year or early 2021 without a renewed external infusion of funds.

Cash burn, or monthly use of cash to fund operations, is impacted by, among other things, the timing of resumption of theater operations, the timing of movie releases and the slate of future releases, theater attendance levels, landlord negotiations and minimum lease payments, costs associated with the enhanced safety and sanitation protocols, and food and beverage receipts.

“To meet its obligations as they become due, the company will require additional sources of liquidity or increases in attendance levels,” CFO Sean Goodman wrote in the Oct. 13 filing. “The required amounts of additional liquidity are expected to be material.”

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AMC said it has generated about $40 million to date selling new shares of stock, in addition to lopping off hundreds of millions of dollars owed on long-term debt.

The filing revealed what most observers already knew: The exhibition business is facing extinction if pandemic conditions remain the same and liquidity issues aren’t further addressed. And even if they are, the business realities facing theaters is dire.

“There can be no assurance that the assumptions used to estimate our liquidity requirements and future cash burn will be correct, or that we will be able to achieve more-normalized levels of attendance described above, which are materially higher than our current attendance levels, and our ability to be predictive is uncertain due to the unknown magnitude and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Goodman wrote.

The filing stands in contrast to the confidence CEO Adam Aron has been projecting in recent weeks, including boasts that AMC, unlike rival Regal Cinemas, could remain open in the current business climate due in part to its groundbreaking distribution agreement with Universal Pictures. That deal allows Universal to significantly shrink the theatrical window in exchange for sharing revenue from early transactional VOD and premium VOD releases in the home.

As of Oct. 9, AMC had resumed operations at 494 of its 598 U.S. theaters, with limited seating capacities of between 20% and 40%, representing approximately 83% of the U.S. theaters and 77% of 2019 U.S. same-theater revenue.

Since the resumption of operations in its U.S. markets, AMC said it has seen more than 2.2 million moviegoers frequent theaters, representing a same-theater attendance decline of approximately 85% compared to the same period a year ago.

The remaining 17% of the U.S. theaters left to reopen are primarily located in California, Maryland, New York, North Carolina and the state of Washington, and include some of the chain’s most productive locations, representing approximately 23% of 2019 U.S. revenue.

Twenty-five theaters in North Carolina and Washington State are scheduled to reopen Oct. 16. AMC says it has an “active dialogue” with local and state government officials in the remaining states, however, there is “limited visibility” around the timing for resumption of theatre operations in these locales.

Meanwhile, AMC’s fiscal situation not only affects employees and shareholders, but landlords as well. The company said it had resumed operations at 308 leased and partnership international theaters. This represents about 86% of its international screens and approximately 90% of 2019 international same-theater revenue. Since the resumption of operations in its International markets June 3, AMC has seen more than 5.2 million consumers return, representing a same-theater attendance decline of approximately 74% compared with the same period a year ago.

“It is very difficult to estimate our liquidity requirements and future cash burn rates, and depending on the assumptions used regarding the timing and ability to achieve more normalized levels of operating revenue, the estimates of amounts of required liquidity vary significantly,” Goodman wrote.

Micheal Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, doesn’t expect attendance levels to begin to normalize until mid-2021. He said that with 30% of moviegoers in the 50+ age group and another 30% between 30 and 50 (according to MPAA, 2018), a significant portion of moviegoers are not going to be bold enough to return to theaters without a virus vaccine. Losing a substantial portion of this demographic, and especially their children, is driving studios to delay theatrical releases.

“We think the relatively lackluster domestic box office for Tenet, juxtaposed with the seemingly tepid response to Mulan as a PVOD release, have made film releases seem like a risky business in the current environment,” Pachter wrote in a note.