AMC CFO Sees "Strong" 2017 Box-Office Prospects From Returning Hollywood Franchises

AMC Entertainment's Craig Ramsey

Craig Ramsey also discussed his company's Carmike Cinemas acquisition to become the biggest U.S. exhibitor.

AMC Entertainment Holdings has just ended a big year at the box office after completing acquisitions for Carmike Cinemas and Odeon & UCI in Europe and seeing domestic box office top $11 billion in 2016 for another industry record.

It's too soon for AMC Entertainment CFO Craig Ramsey to predict that 2017 will be another record year at the Hollywood box office, but he sees strong prospects from sequels like Furious 8: The Fate of the Furious, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Star Wars: Episode VIII now on deck.

"We see a lot of popular franchises coming back ... we think the product lineup [for 2017] will be strong, and into 2018 we see Avatar 2 hang out there, which will have a pretty substantial impact on the 2018 box office," Ramsey on Thursday told the Citi 2017 Internet, Media & Telecommunications Conference in Las Vegas during a session that was webcast.

The exec added AMC, as the largest domestic operator of Imax screens, stands to gain as titles like Warner Bros.' The Lego Batman Movie, The Great Wall and the Furious, Guardians and Star Wars sequels play on its giant screens. Ramsey also touted other upcoming superhero titles such as Wonder Woman and Justice League from Warner Bros. and Marvel's Thor: Ragnarok to bring fans out to the local multiplex.

That's key, because the AMC CFO has heard the chatter about apparent threats to the exhibition industry from day-and-date VOD releases and home entertainment. The stakes are high as AMC Theatres, majority-owned by the Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, is now the largest exhibitor in the U.S., Europe and the world, operating 900 venues with more than 10,000 screens globally.

Still, Ramsey isn't sweating the small stuff. "We think the magic of our business is that people do ultimately want to leave the home to be entertained. And if the moviegoing experience is relevant, if it's safe and friendly and comfortable and convenient, then we will have a good chance to capture those entertainment dollars spent if people decide to leave home," he told the investors conference. 

Ramsey also discussed his company's recent acquisition of Carmike Cinemas for around $1.1 billion to make it the largest U.S. movie theater chain, and a second deal to acquire European cinema giant Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group. He said the Carmike deal gives AMC a larger footprint and more diverse demographics in the U.S. market.

"We have significant scale now serving guests in both rural and urban markets," the exec told investors. AMC also will continue to eye possible acquisitions in the domestic market, but likely for smaller circuits it can tuck into its existing network.

"That's probably the last, big merger," Ramsey said of the Carmike deal.