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AMC Theatres is stepping back from managing its cinemas in Saudi Arabia as it deals with a high debt load coming out of the COVID pandemic, saying on Tuesday it “will transition from a management and investment role to a pure licensing relationship.”
The mega exhibitor, which launched operations in the Middle Eastern country in 2018, said its stake in a joint venture has been bought out for $30 million, meaning a repayment of its original investment, by local partner Saudi Entertainment Ventures. AMC will now license its brand and IP to that company.
The current 13 AMC Cinemas locations and future locations will continue to retain the AMC name, but will be run by Saudi Cinema Company as part of the licensing agreement. AMC launched in Saudi Arabia, first in Riyadh, after the Saudi government lifted a 35-year ban on cinemas.
“When the joint venture was created, it had two goals. First, to bring moviegoing to the Saudi people. Second, and equally important, to train a theater management and corporate team such that at some point in the future, the enterprise could be run locally within the Kingdom,” AMC chairman and CEO Adam Aron said in a statement. “After more than five years since our first trip to Saudi Arabia and nearly five years since we opened our first theater there, that point in the future is now. This announcement and agreement is the natural next step in this process.”
The exhibition giant is battling a high debt load following disruption to its sector from the pandemic crisis and its impact on the local multiplex.
AMC operates around 950 theatres and 10,500 screens around the world currently.
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