New AMC Theatres CEO Hopes To Sync With Wanda Group’s “Global Aspirations”

Adam Aron already has a few ideas to improve AMC Entertainment after January 4, when he officially becomes its CEO. But he may have bigger ones later in the month after he visits China to, as he puts it, “spend considerable time” with the leaders of Dalian Wanda Group, which bought the No. 2 exhibition chain in 2012.

“Wanda has global aspirations and I think it will be intriguing to see what joint opportunity there is for AMC and Wanda,” Aron tells me.

He wants to wait before committing to a particular initiative.

But Aron observes that “when you combine Wanda’s presence in the motion picture distribution business in Asia and Australia [with AMC], together we’re a very important player in the world of movie distribution. We’ll see how we can use that to the benefit of moviegoers, the makers of films and studios, as well as AMC shareholders.”

Investors are already optimistic about what the former chief of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Vail Resorts and Norwegian Cruise Line will do at AMC.

The exhibition chain’s shares are up 5.7% in afternoon trading, adding more than $122 million to its market value.

Aron says that he wants the company to develop “a relationship with AMC’s customers before they get to the theater, while they’re at the theater, and after they leave.”

He looks to enrich the content of AMC’s loyalty program, which he says is “currently called Stubs.” In addition to offering tickets, he’d like to make it “a repository of all sorts of information about the movies in general and make it a community for film lovers.”

At AMC venues he wants to expand restaurant and entertainment opportunities so that “going to the theater itself is as much an experience as watching the movie that’s on the screen…. If AMC wants to compete with all of the other digital ways that guests can watch the movies, both now and in the many years to come, we’re going to have to make a night out at the theater a great one.”

Meanwhile he says he’s open to initiatives — perhaps like the experiment AMC just made with Paramount: The studio offered a cut of the home video pie to exhibitors that presented two films Paramount planned to release before the end of theaters’ typical 90-day exclusive window.

“I’m not sure I should commit to which initiatives you’ll see,” he says. But “through all of my career I’ve been a creative and innovative marketer and the status quo is not an exciting thing for me to lead. What excites me is doing new things and blazing new trails.”

Could that include showing Netflix-produced movies that it wants theaters to show at the same time they’re also available online — a plan most of the major chains oppose? He asks to wait until he officially moves into the new job before taking a position, but adds: “I don’t come into the job with many preconceived biases.”

Meanwhile Wall Street, which has knocked AMC shares down about 7.8% so far this year, can expect some love. “I certainly will be talking to the investor community to be sure that they understand the AMC story,” he says.

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