Don’t rule out the possibility that China’s Dalian Wanda Group will eye the U.S. movie production business now that it has agreed to pay $2.6B for AMC Entertainment. The exhibition chain’s also considering allowing texting during some showtimes. AMC chief Gerry Lopez, 52, says all kinds of things can happen these days, and especially following his blockbuster deal last week with Wanda’s billionaire chief Wang Jianlin. It’s Wang’s first major foray outside of his country, as well as the biggest buyout by a Chinese company of a U.S. entity. If approved by government officials, Wanda will pick up the No. 2 movie chain — whose initials used to stand for American Multi-Cinema — with 5,034 screens at 346 theaters in the U.S. and Canada.
The deal cures AMC’s biggest headache. It needed to pay off its private equity owners: J.P. Morgan, Apollo Management, Bain Capital, The Carlyle Group, and Spectrum Equity. The company had hoped to go public but that effort stalled as AMC continued to spill red ink. In the 52 weeks that ended in March it generated a net loss of $82M — an improvement from the $122.9M loss in the same period ending a year ago — on revenues of $2.6B, up 6.7%. Wanda’s purchase price includes the assumption of AMC’s $2.2B in debt, which required the chain to pay about $160M in interest in its latest fiscal year.
What happens now? Deadline Executive Editor David Lieberman spoke with Lopez, a former Starbucks exec, about AMC’s plans with Wanda and other hot-button issues in exhibition. This interview was edited for length and clarity: (more…)