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.
Cost control is one of the big reasons for the changes. Expenses “have increased in some areas faster than revenues,” AMC says. The chain recently sold its theaters in Canada, and bargained for a big payout to switch its online ticketing to Comcast’s Fandango from MovieTickets.com where AMC remains a major equity owner. MovieTickets said in a lawsuit in Florida that Frank breached her fiduciary obligation to the joint venture by continuing to sit on its board while she negotiated with Fandango. AMC says that it was “entitled” to make the switch.
But exhibition execs tell me that they’re mystified by some of AMC’s recent moves, especially ones that seem to degrade the consumer experience. For example, the chain has been pulling its directory ads from newspapers — including The Los Angeles Times when their contract was up in April. That often leaves newspaper readers mystified about show times, and puts AMC at a competitive disadvantage to rivals that continue to run directory ads in the Times including Landmark, Regency, Cinemark, and Regal. To be sure, AMC had good reason to be frustrated by The Times’ high ad rates — and its insistence that theaters promote the paper’s Calendar section in the pre-show period when trailers run. “The LA Times lists TV show times for free, but has gotten by screwing exhibitors for years,” one exec says.