AMC top exhibitor, after a year of ‘fevered M&A activity’

Box Office Pro releases annual survey of the top 50 exhibitors in the domestic market.

It might not have been a record year, but few will complain that 2019 finished as the second-highest-grossing year on record at the domestic box office.

The North American market—constituting all screens in the United States, Canada, and associated territories—brought in $11.4 billion in a dramatic year marked by M&A across the distribution and exhibition landscapes.

Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox was completed in the year’s first quarter, helping catapult the studio to a historic $4.3 billion in North America, a figure adjusted to $3.7 billion excluding Fox titles. That adds up to a dominant market share, with Disney claiming over a third of total tickets sold at North American cinemas in 2019.

AMC Discover Mills by valerierenee (Wikimedia Commons)
AMC Discover Mills by valerierenee (Wikimedia Commons)

It was no less dramatic on the exhibition side. Marcus Theatres crossed the 1,000-screen benchmark with its acquisition of Movie Tavern from Southern Theatres, extending its influence from the Midwest to 17 states nationwide. Cinépolis’s U.S. presence increased with its own acquisition of a dine-in chain, adding six locations of Texas-based Moviehouse & Eatery to its growing fleet of cinemas in the United States. European giant Kinepolis, only a couple of years after first entering North America with its acquisition of Landmark Cinemas of Canada, made headlines with its acquisition of MJR Digital Cinemas—its first foray into the United States.

Meanwhile, Regal’s transformation under Cineworld introduced several changes to everything from branding to subscription plans, and even extending to vendors at the concession stand. The most high-profile acquisition of the year, however, didn’t come until December. The announcement of Cineworld’s intent to acquire Cineplex, Canada’s leading circuit, will have a major impact on next year’s edition of this list. The deal is expected to close in Q1 2020, so those results aren’t reflected in this year’s version of our Giants of Exhibition, which tallies domestic screen-count totals up to December 31, 2019.

As the fevered M&A activity redefines the playing field for global distribution and exhibition, our research into this year’s Giants revealed another crucial portent of success for the coming decade. The digital cinema revolution that ushered in the 2010s has given way to new viewing formats and amenities, with circuits large and small investing time and money to keep up with the expectations of a demanding audience. Regardless of the changes ahead, however, the industry’s commitment to innovation and the moviegoing experience will be the key to its future success...

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