Amazon may buy AMC Movie Theatres

As AMC considers bankruptcy, Amazon may snap up the company

Amazon.com (AMZN) has held talks to acquire the troubled movie chain AMC Entertainment Holdings (AMC), but it is unclear if the discussions are still active, Jamie Nimmo of Daily Mail reports, citing sources.

The companies are thought to have held talks about a potential takeover of AMC by Amazon, the sources said.

Amazon may buy AMC

Buying a cinema chain would enable Amazon to control the screening of films, giving it greater dominance of the industry. Amazon’s interest in cinemas is not new. 

In 2018, Amazon looked at buying American arthouse cinema chain Landmark Theatres, but lost out to the eventual buyer, Cohen Media Group. Netflix was also reportedly in the running to buy Landmark.

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Amazon.com is in talks to buy AMC, Stockwinners

However, a takeover of AMC would be on a different scale as Landmark only had about 250 screens in the US, while AMC has about 1,000 around the world.

Amazon certainly has the means to buy AMC, whose stock market value has collapsed in recent years to just $420million.

In a sign of bad times in the movie business, earlier this month AMC Theatres (AMC) sent a letter to Universal Studios (CMCSA) chairman Donna Langley, saying that, going forward, AMC will not license any Universal films in any of its 1,000 globally effective immediately.

Amazon bought supermarket chain Whole Foods Market in 2017 in a sign that the company was willing to spend money buying non-web-based companies. 

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Amazon bought Wholefoods in 2017

AMC was bought by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda for $2.6 billion in 2012, but it bought back $600 million worth of shares in 2018 after Beijing cracked down on overseas investments by Chinese companies.

Under Wanda, AMC launched a major expansion plan, and in 2016 bought Odeon in the UK for £920 million from British financier Guy Hands’ private equity firm, Terra Firma, and US group Carmike Cinemas for $1.1 billion.

The deals turned AMC into the world’s largest cinema company, with 1,000 outlets and 10,000 screens around the world.

However, the expansion plan backfired and left AMC saddled with debts that are now close to $ 5billion. Last month, AMC raised $500 million from bond investors in an effort to stay afloat during the crisis. 

However, investors still questioned whether AMC could avoid bankruptcy, given its parlous financial state.

A group of AMC’s lenders reportedly hired lawyers to advise on restructuring options last month, underlining AMC’s financial strife. 

In Monday’s pre-market trading, AMC shares are up 70% to $7.00. AMZN closed at $2379.61.

Read our blog about AMC.

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The real star war begins

AMC to no longer play Universal movies in its U.S. theaters

AMC Theatres (AMC) sent a letter to Universal Studios (CMCSA) chairman Donna Langley, saying that, going forward, AMC will not license any Universal films in any of its 1,000 globally effective immediately.

AMC will no longer play Universal movies, Stockwinners

“For much of the past four and a half years, I have been in direct dialogue with Jeff Shell and Peter Levinsohn of Universal about the importance of a robust theatrical window to the viability of the motion picture exhibition industry,” the letter reads.

“Throughout that time, AMC has expressed a willingness to consider alternatives to the current windowing strategy common in our industry, where the aim of such alternatives is to improve both studio profitability and theater operator profitability.

Universal stated it only pursued a direct-to-home entertainment release for “Trolls World Tour” because theaters were closed and Universal was committed to a lucrative toy licensing deal. We had our doubts that this was wholly Universal’s motivations, as it has been a longstanding desire by Universal to go to the home day and date.

Nonetheless, we accepted this action as an exception to our longstanding business practices in these unprecedented times.”

AMC noted that Shell was quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying that the success of “Trolls World Tour” demonstrated the viability of PVOD, and as soon as theaters reopen, the company expects to release movies on both theater and PVOD formats.

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

“Accordingly, we want to be absolutely clear, so that there is no ambiguity of any kind. AMC believes that with this proposed action to go to the home and theatres simultaneously, Universal is breaking the business model and dealings between our two companies.

Universal owns some blockbuster franchises, Stockwinners

It assumes that we will meekly accept a reshaped view of how studios and exhibitors should interact, with zero concern on Universal’s part as to how its actions affect us. It also presumes that Universal in fact can have its cake and eat it too, that Universal film product can be released to the home and theatres at the same time, without modification to the current economic arrangements between us. It is disappointing to us, but Jeff’s comments as to Universal’s unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice.

Therefore, effectively immediately AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theatres in the United States, Europe or the Middle East. This policy affects any and all Universal movies per se, goes into effect today and as our theatres reopen, and is not some hollow or ill-considered threat.

Incidentally, this policy is not aimed solely at Universal out of pique or to be punitive in any way, it also extends to any movie maker who unilaterally abandons current windowing practices absent good faith negotiations between us, so that they as distributor and we as exhibitor both benefit and neither are hurt from such changes.

Currently, with the press comment today, Universal is the only studio contemplating a wholesale change to the status quo. Hence, this immediate communication in response.”

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