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In a symbolic move, shareholders of AMC Theatres voted against the pay packages of company officials, including CEO Adam Aron, the exhibition giant disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.
In a non-binding tally, stock holders with 86,896,550 in shares voted against the compensation paid to AMC’s executive officers, while those holding 52,148,743 in shares voted in favor of the disclosed pay.
In April, the theater chain disclosed that Aron was paid $18.9 million in 2021, down from $20.9 million in 2020 when theaters were mostly closed for months amid the pandemic. Among other top execs, CFO Sean Goodman made $4.7 million and exec vp of operations John D. McDonald took home $3.4 million in 2021.
Since the vote is non-binding, there’s no financial ramifications to the move by shareholders, but it’s a signal to the theater chain’s leadership that some investors weren’t satisfied with the compensation structure. The votes were taken at AMC annual meeting June 16, with the results being disclosed Friday.
Thanks to retail investor interest, AMC joined retailer GameStop as a memestock in 2021, with its share price hitting a high of 59.26 on June 18 of last year. That helped prop up the exhibitor, the world’s largest, which owns or operates 950 theaters and more than 10,000 screens globally.
AMC then went on an acquisition spree, acquiring four former Pacific and ArcLight theaters and seven theater locations from Bow Tie Cinemas, among other deals. The theater chain branched out into the retail popcorn business, selling “AMC Theatres Perfectly Popcorn” in select mall locations, developing a microwave popcorn brand, branching out into NFT offerings and discussing a co-branded credit card.
Aron, on his personal Twitter account and in calls with investors, also made efforts to court the retail investors that have flocked to the theater chain since the pandemic began, including calling out shareholders that sent him a binder and an email with “1,000 different ideas” for the chain. “I hear the advice coming in Twitter post after Twitter post that comes from our approximate 4 million retail investors, who own the vast, vast, vast majority of our 516.8 million issued shares,” Aron said on a May 9 earnings call.
And, in March, the chain went further afield from its cinema roots and picked up a $27.9 million stake in gold and silver mining company Hycroft Mining. (Aron later said on an earnings call that investors should expect “more Hycrofts ahead,” as far as “value-creating investments where AMC can continue to share our expertise and talents.”)
AMC disclosed in May that it had shrunk its first-quarter losses to $337.4 million, based on box office hits like Warner Bros.’ The Batman, Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sony/Marvel’s Spider-Man: No Way Home. And Aron noted a rise in revenue per patron at its theater locations, touting on an earnings call that the figure was “up 34 percent above prepandemic norms and meaningfully higher than was seen at our largest competitors.”
Following the domestic bows of Paramount’s Top Gun: Maverick as well as Universal’s Jurassic World Dominion, AMC noted on June 13 that box office returns from June 10-12 exceeded the same frame in pre-pandemic 2019 by 15 percent, ahead of the openings of Disney/Pixar’s Lightyear and Warners’ Elvis unspooling this month.
Since Jan. 3, the first day of trading in 2022, stock in the major theater chain has kept up its wild ride, but has ultimately fallen more than 50 percent this year, from 26.52 a share to 12.53 as of June 17.
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